Disease-causing germs are present all year round, but flu and cold viruses circulate more during the winter because they are transmitted more easily in cold, dry air. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)reports that the peak season for flu activity in the United States often falls between December and February.
Cold temperatures also have negative effects on the immune system. A study by Brenner et al. published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (1999) reported that “cold exposure may increase an organism’s susceptibility to infection.” To keep you safe and avoid getting sick during this winter season, here are some tips to stay healthy!
Wash Your Hands Regularly.
- One of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of germs is through frequent handwashing. Wash your hands with soap and warm water, scrub them for at least 20 seconds, and dry them with paper towels.
- It’s especially important to wash your hands before eating or touching your face, nose, and mouth, as well as after coughing or sneezing, after using the bathroom, or after touching objects and surfaces.
- If soap and water are not readily available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Take note that while alcohol-based hand sanitizers quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands, they cannot eliminate every type of microbe.
Get a Flu Shot.
- The flu can be a serious illness, especially for young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. Getting a flu shot can help protect you from the virus and reduce your risk of getting sick.
- The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot each year.
Stay Warm and Dry.
- As mentioned, cold weather can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness. Dress in layers and make sure to keep your feet, head, and hands warm.
- Avoid getting wet, as this can make you even more susceptible to getting sick.
Eat a Healthy Diet.
- Eating a healthy diet is important all year round, but it’s especially important during the winter months.
- Make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as lean protein sources. These foods provide essential nutrients that can help keep your immune system strong.
- Drinking plenty of water is important for overall health. The cold, dry air can dehydrate you quickly, so make sure to drink enough water throughout the day.
- Herbal teas and warm soups can also help keep you hydrated and provide additional nutrients.
- Regular exercise can help boost your immune system and reduce your risk of getting sick.
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, such as walking, jogging, or cycling. If you prefer indoor exercise, try yoga, pilates, or weightlifting.
Get Enough Sleep.
- Sleep is essential for overall health. Make sure to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, as lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of getting sick.
Keep Your Surroundings Clean.
Following these eight tips can help keep your immune system strong and reduce your risk of getting sick. Stay warm, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep and water, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy and happy winter season.
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