As we begin December, winter illnesses are top of mind. Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory that cases of influenza are beginning to rise in the 5 to 24-year-old age group. Coupled with the predicted spread of the COVID Omicron variant, it’s more important than ever to stay up-to-date with your vaccines. Right now, the most important vaccinations are the flu shot for any eligible persons six months and older and the COVID vaccine and booster for any eligible persons aged five and older.
If you need more convincing, consider these facts: More than 200 viruses can cause the common cold, and hundreds of flu strains emerge each year. Plus, each cough or sneeze from a sick individual has millions of viral particles that can travel six feet or further. According to the CDC, the average adult catches two to three colds each year (that number is much higher for young children!), and up to twenty percent of us get the flu. There’s no doubt about it: Germs are everywhere.
How to Survive Flu Season
Dealing with a cold or the flu doesn’t need to be complicated. There are some simple steps you can take — beyond getting vaccinated — to protect yourself and your loved ones. Below, check out five tips to help you survive flu season.
- Crack open a window: Your chance of catching a bug goes up if you’re in an enclosed space with someone who’s sick. Adding a little fresh air to the room allows the airborne viral particles to keep moving, making an illness harder to catch.
- Make time for exercise: Even better? Head outside for a walk! Consistent exercise can improve your immunity, which in turn may help you stay healthy. A study found that individuals who exercise for 45 minutes or more, 4 times per week, took 25 to 50 percent less time off from work during the winter months.
- Eat some mushrooms: Yep, you read that correctly: According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, they have immune-boosting powers. You can easily add them to your next omelet, pasta dish, or salad!
- Include antioxidant-rich foods in your diet: Making an effort to eat more nutritious, well-rounded meals that include antioxidant-rich foods can have major pay-offs to your overall health. In addition to mushrooms, try to include blueberries, broccoli, kale, and cabbage in your weekly menu.
- Use a humidifier: It’s no secret that dry indoor air (often caused by running the heat) worsens the severity of a sore throat or cough. A humidifier adds moisture to the air, making your symptoms more bearable. Plus, studies show that viruses thrive in dry air, so switching on a humidifier may reduce their ability to survive.
Travel Tips for the Holiday Season
Recent surveys suggest that nearly 161 million Americans will travel during the holiday season. Besides frequently washing your hands, here are three ways to stay healthy as you spend time gathering with your loved ones.
- Stay away from sneezers: Germs from sneezes can travel at speeds of over 100 miles per hour and spread as far as 20 feet. If a stranger at the airport or even a friend at a holiday party starts sneezing, politely excuse yourself and move away. If you’re the sneezer, make sure to cover your mouth and nose with the bend of your elbow. That way, you’re not transferring the germs to your hands and then touching door knobs, arm rests on the airplane, or even other people.
- Don’t touch your face: It’s harder than it sounds! Did you know that the average person puts their hand on their mouth or nose more than three times every hour? Even if you wash your hands regularly, chances are, you’re still spreading germs to your nose and eyes, the most common ways for them to enter the body. In an effort to break this habit, sit on your hands when they’re idle.
- Focus on your sleep habits: Whether you travel or not, chances are, holiday commitments will disrupt your usual routine. From early mornings and late nights to shared bedrooms and packed schedules, your sleep may be impacted the most. In an effort to combat this disruption, follow a consistent bedtime routine to help you fall asleep faster. Additionally, add magnesium-rich foods, like spinach, beans, and nuts, into your holiday meals. This nutrient helps your brain and body relax, leading to more restful sleep.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season!
Reach out to Dr. Asha Tota-Maharaj, MD at Platinum Primary Care with all your healthcare needs. Come visit us at 2071 Dundee Drive in Winter Park.