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Tips to Prevent a Winter of Discontent

November 2008
Tips to Prevent a Winter of Discontent

Are you one of those people who dread winter because of illnesses? Whether it’s the cold, flu, cough or sore throat, there are ways to prevent sickness and strengthen your immunity during the winter. Here are some suggestions to stay healthy this winter:

Wash hands frequently: This is the most important thing you can do. Wash hands for at least for 10-15 seconds or the amount of time it takes you to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. Bacteria and germs can live for hours on infected surfaces, so be careful not to touch your face, eyes or mouth with your fingers. It’s always a good idea to carry a hand sanitizer with you and also keep one in your kids’ book bag, in the car, and one in each room of the house. If someone does get a cold in the house, make it a point to sanitize hands after nose blowing.

Eat healthy: Well, we all know what that means, right? But, how many of us actually do it? Are you getting a good balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables? Some examples are brown rice; whole wheat or whole grain pasta and breads; lean meats such as chicken breast, turkey and fish; lentils and beans; and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Good winter vegetables include leafy greens, sweet potatoes, winter squash, rutabaga, and many more. Are you having a hard time getting your vegetables in? Why not make a veggie smoothie with carrots, beets, spinach, celery, tomato, and blueberries which are rich in antioxidants. Be creative and experiment with different combinations. And yes, do get the kids involved with this.

Stay hydrated: Central heating in the winter will dry out your nasal membranes and even your throat, leaving you susceptible to infections. Therefore, it is important to stay well hydrated. Drink up to ten glasses of water, 8–10 oz each, daily, and carry a water bottle with you at all times. If you wait until you are thirsty to drink up, it’s too late—you are already somewhat dehydrated. So how do you know if you’re well hydrated? Check the color of your urine: it should be clear to pale straw-yellow!

Exercise: Studies show that those who exercise regularly get fewer colds and get sick less frequently than those who don’t exercise. Exercise is a great stress reliever and has been shown to improve immunity. Exercise increases endorphins and improves mood. So don’t put your exercise regimen on hold during winter; instead, stick with it or begin one.

Sleep: Yes, you guessed it. Those who get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep have better immunity and get less colds and flu. Lack of sleep affects our ability to perform well during the day, impairs our mental functioning and causes stress which affects immunity and lowers the body’s resistance to infection. Remember, good sleep equates to good health, so make sure you’re getting plenty of zzzzzz’s!

Drink Tea: Green tea, that is. There has been a lot of buzz recently about the health benefits of drinking green tea. Studies show that green tea has powerful antioxidants that fight disease and improve immunity. But, you’ll have to drink several cups a day to reap its health benefits. So when the temperature dips, heat up that kettle with hot water and make yourself some green tea!

Stay warm: Staying warm in winter is important because a drop in the body’s natural temperature can lower one’s resistance to germs, especially important for the elderly and children. Always keep a couple of throw blankets in the car to stay warm before the heater kicks in. Check windows at home to make sure they are tightly closed to avoid cold drafts. Dress in layers and keep a hat, gloves and scarf with you and maybe even another set in the car during winter. The body loses most of its heat through the head so hats are a must, especially for those heads with less hair. The elderly can be encouraged to wear sweaters and shawls, scarves and even hats indoors if necessary to maintain comfortable body temperature.

Finally, talk to your doctor if you feel that you need to get the flu shot. And if you do get a cold, remember not to sneeze in your hands but in a tissue or an elbow, followed by sanitizing your hands.

Stay Warm and Well this Winter!

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