How Not to Get Sick from the Fall to Spring Thaw
By Dr. Eleanor Host
It is in the air. People are already sniffling, sneezing, coughing, wiping, blowing, hooting, complaining, and hacking. We are also standing outside in the cold and damp for a whole host of fall and holiday traditons, including sporting events, parades, pumpkin patches, and shopping.
Then there is the holiday season. You have family coming, the house needs cleaning, food needs preparing, the kids are home from school, you have gifts to buy—the last thing you need is to get sick! Unfortunately, this time of year is often a perfect storm for getting a cold or the flu. Here is a list of some triggers for getting sick and what you can do to try to prevent that.
- It’s cold outside. Well, you can’t change the weather. Or can you? When the air gets cold, the amount of water the air holds drops quite a bit. This makes the air dry. It also will tend to pull moisture out of wherever it is—like your nose! When you nose gets dry, it is easier for viruses to get in and attack your cells and make you sick. Therefore, you need to put more moisture in the air with a humidifier. A whole house one is nice and convenient. If you use a unit, I would place one where you sit the most in your house, and one in the bedroom. Be sure to follow the manufacturer directions for keeping it clean! If you have a humidistat (a device that measures the humidity) it should be set to keep humidity at 30-40% in the winter. The do make small units you can put on your desk at work. Also, you can use saline nasal sprays frequently to keep your nose moist. Remember to drink plenty of fluids during the cold days also!
- It’s cold outside. Unless you have a hobby that takes you out of doors in the winter, you are likely spending much of your time indoors. Along with all of your family and friends. Being in enclosed spaces will increase your chance of catching someone else’s cold viruses. Did you know that most viruses are more catchable before you have any symptoms? A few big things to do: wash your hands frequently—pay attention to the nail areas, nooks and crannies. It should take you 30 full seconds to lather and scrub. Try singing the “Happy Birthday to You” song while you wash up. Both the soap and the friction are important to kill germs, however, antibacterial soap isn’t necessary and may be harmful in the long run by causing more bacteria to be resistant to it. If you want to use hand sanitizer, rubbing is important and again, pay attention to the nails! You should also avoid touching your face during cold season to avoid transferring germs from your hands. Finally, wipe off door knobs with disinfectant, or warm soapy water daily if you can. Many germs can live on surfaces for hours! Wash your hands after being in public places, and don’t touch your face until after you have washed up.
- You are burning the candle at both ends. With the holidays and other activities this is a very busy time of year. It is easy to short yourself on sleep, eating healthy, and exercising. Guess what things make your immune system work the best? Getting good sleep, eating healthy, and exercising!! Try to aim for 6-8 hours of sleep a night. Do not short change yourself here, it really helps keep your body running best. Secondly, try to plan for busy days by making healthy meals at home on the weekends that you can freeze and cook during the week. Or just try to plan ahead so you have something to make at home. Eating out will expose you to more calories and people with their germs, after all. Finally, at the minimum, try for 3 days a week of 30 minute of something for exercise. Bundle up and go for a walk outside. It is very refreshing and you can check out your neighbors’ decorations. Or you can do an exercise bike, aerobics, join a gym, etc.
- Get a flu shot. The influenza vaccine does not contain any live virus, so you can’t get the flu from the shot. If you get influenza, it WILL put you out of commission for 4 days or more. You should definitely get one if you have any major chronic illness or lung issues like asthma. I would also like to point out that “stomach flu” is NOT from influenza. It is from a completely different virus. Influenza causes high fever, body aches, head cold symptoms and a bad cough, as it grows in the lung tissues. In bad cases, you can get nausea or vomiting/diarrhea. Stomach flu may or may not have a fever, and does give you nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. You usually feel achy due to dehydration. Tamiflu does not work for the stomach flu.
- Herbal prevention? While many people believe in vitamin C or Echinacea, latest research shows these really do nothing to prevent or help colds when you are sick. They won’t hurt you, so if you have a strong belief that they work, go ahead and use them! If you start to feel a cold coming on, try taking zinc lozenges. That has been shown to cut down the severity and length of a cold. Another supplement to try if you do get a cold is Umcka. That also can help your body fight off the virus. If you think you have the flu, call your doctor right away to get started on antiviral flu medication. It works best if you start it right away.
I hope you find these tips useful and avoid getting sick this season! I have to go and wash my hands now…
Dr. Eleanor Host is a Board Certified family physician, licensed in Ohio and Michigan.
She was trained in acupuncture in 2000 through the Helms Medical Institute and has been in successful practice for over fifteen years. Dr. Host has expertise in Scalp Acupuncture, Percutaneous Nerve Stimulation, Five Energy Balancing, and Meridian Channel Flow. She is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine (NEOUCOM) with post graduate residency at WW Knight Family Practice at the Toledo Hospital. She is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, Wilderness Medical Society and is Board Certified in Family Medicine. Her practice is Whole Family Medical Care, a direct primary care practice. For more information:
28442 East River Road, Suite 204
Perrysburg, Ohio 43551
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