By Chris Dato • December 16, 2014
From the end of fall to the beginning of winter is prime time for the cold and flu. This is because the holiday season is a perfect storm for sickness, with the temperature dropping and places becoming more crowded. Here are some easy tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of the virus this cold season.
It is easy to overlook the importance of staying hydrated, especially with the cooler temperatures and hectic pace of the holidays. However, drinking fluids is an essential step in staying healthy. Drinking water flushes toxins out of your body, and helps your body produce white blood cells, which are vital to the function of your immune system. Obviously, avoid sharing bottles or cups during cold season.
Drinking juice can also be a great way to help stave off sickness. Orange juice is high in vitamin C, which boosts your immune system. Vitamin C is the main ingredient in products like Airborne and Emergen-C, which can be a real lifesaver if it seems like everyone around you catching the bug. Drinking juices that have antioxidants, such as cranberry juice, is also a good idea.
And while we are on the topic, don’t underestimate the value of oral hygiene during cold season. Brushing your teeth kills potentially harmful germs from your mouth and nasal passages.
Keeping clean hands is always an important habit for maintaining good health, but it is particularly crucial during cold season. Washing your hands using soap and water is undoubtedly the most effective way to ensure clean hands. You do not have be obsessive about the act, but rather be conscious of when to clean your hands such as after using the restroom, when handling food, or after obvious exposure to contaminants. Practices like using your hand to cover your mouth are polite, but unsanitary. Instead, cover your mouth using the inside of your slightly bent elbow (called the vampire cough by Pam on The Office). Effective hand washing requires soap and water, and should last 20 seconds. A common trick is to hum “Happy Birthday” twice to yourself.
Hand sanitizer is not a bad tool to have in the fight against influenza. Keep in mind that sanitizer is meant to be used in combination with soap and water, not as a replacement for them. It is also ineffective in situation where dirt is visibly layered onto the skin. When you do find yourself in need of hand sanitizer, try to use a product with 60% or greater alcohol content, as this is the most effective at fighting bacteria. All of these facts were either found or verified by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.
Isn’t it incredible how stressful ‘winter vacation’ can get? Few of us realize just how real an impact stress can have on our health. Being stressed exhausts your body physically as well as mentally, and this can be especially true with the obligations of the holidays. However, experiencing stress causes your body to produce cortisol, which is a hormone that weakens your immune system. Stress can also take a toll on your sleep, which is crucial to staying healthy, so do your best to get at least 7 hours a night.
Finally, get an immunization whenever possible, as it greatly reduces your chances of getting sick. Remember that a new vaccination is required each year, as viruses mutate from season to season.
Just to be clear, I am not recommending you wear a bubble anytime you go out between October and January to avoid germs. Rather, develop precautionary habits for time of heightened risk, like cold and flu season.
Chris Dato A Southern California kid born and raised, Chris is happiest with sunglasses on his face and sand under his back. Although a self-proclaimed master money saver, he prefers the term 'responsibly frugal' to 'cheap.'