Another winter is upon us and there are plenty of respiratory viruses circulating. I feel that I and everyone else I know has been battling one of these viruses since November. Yes, we still must worry about COVID but we also need to prevent the seasonal flu, colds, and other health ailments that are not taking a break this winter. As a health advocate, I encourage people to take care of themselves and practice self care. A little bit of prevention can go a long way. Now is a good time to reflect on your health habits and really think about how you can improve your health in this new year.
Winter Health Tips
1. Be a Germaphobe
If there is anything the past four years has taught us, it is good to be a germaphobe. Yes, we all worry about COVID, but we can still be coming into contact with many other germs as well. Picking up germs that cause the flu, upper respiratory infections, stomach flu, cold, and various other ailments can be easily done by touching any surface contaminated with these germs and then touching your nose, mouth, and eyes. The same ways we prevent COVID can prevent these other infections as well: wash your hands, wear a good mask if you have aren't feeling well, and practice social distancing.
To be an effective germaphobe, you can:
*Wash your hands thoroughly throughout the day. You don't need antibacterial soap. It is the actual friction between the soap and your skin which dislodges the germs. So make sure to lather outside the stream of water to allow for friction. The CDC recommends scrubbing your hands for a full 20 seconds.
*Get a flu shot.
*If you are a nail biter, now is the time to stop the habit.
*Carry your own pens. Don't share your cell phone.
*Avoid handshakes. The best thing for you is not to come within six feet of other individuals who do not live in your household.
*Clean often touched surfaces frequently.
*Cover your cough and sneeze to prevent germs from going airborne. If you use your hands, wash your hands immediately. Better yet contain your cough or sneeze in the crook of your elbow.
2. Stay Hydrated
The dry indoor air of winter can cause our lips to crack, skin to be dry, and sinuses to dry out. The mucus in our nose is actually a physical barrier which prevents germs from entering our bodies. If the mucus dries up, it doesn't function as well.
To stay hydrated, you can:
*Drink plenty of water.
*Moisturize your skin.
*Use a humidifier to hydrate the air (but make sure you clean it out frequently).
3. Deal Wisely with the Winter Weather
Winter weather can be tricky and even dangerous but that doesn't mean we should spend the whole season indoors. It is important for our mental as well as physical health to spend time outdoors.
To avoid getting punished by the cold weather, you can:
*Dress warmly and in layers. Dress correctly to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Know the warning signs and when to contact medical help.
*If it is slippery out, wear proper footwear. Watch your steps. Carry a cell phone. The last thing you want is to be laying on a sidewalk in the cold and be unable to get up and not have your phone to contact someone for help.
*Before shoveling snow, talk to your doctor if you have a history of heart problems, medical issues, or have not been physically active.
*Prior to shoveling, warm up. Drink plenty of water. Avoid caffeine and nicotine.
Just because it is winter is not an excuse to cut back on your exercise. Exercise is associated with a decrease risk for chronic diseases.
To keep up with your exercise during the winter, you can:
*Move your exercise indoors if the weather is bad. Develop a good indoor workout routine.
*Even though it is cold outside, it is still important to exercise for both our mental and physical well being.
*You can make sure you are getting your steps around your office and home.
*If you can, bundle up and go outside. There is nothing prettier than a clear winter day.
*You can join me virtually for my bi-weekly exercise class. Reach out to me for more information.
Stay healthy and be well. If you are overwhelmed with your current health situation, please don't hesitate to reach out to me, Melissa Hakim MD, your health advocate. 484-533-7822 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you a happy and healthy winter season!