How to Stay Well During the Cold/Flu Season

December 3, 2018 by Dr. Rupa Natarajan

We all know that winter time can be joyful and cozy. However, this time of year can also be accompanied by frequent illnesses, extra stress, and overindulgences. To protect yourself this holiday season, we recommend the following:

1)  Wash your hands!!! Yes, it seems obvious, but it’s all too easy to forget. This simple action, when done right, can protect you against many respiratory and diarrheal infections. Wet your hands under running water, lather up with soap, and scrub your hands (including the backs, under nails, and between your fingers) for at least 20 seconds, or for the length of time that it takes you to hum/sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Wash your hands before and after you handle food, before eating, before and after you care for a sick individual, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, after blowing your nose/coughing/sneezing, after touching garbage, and after handling pets/pet food/pet waste. If you are interested in the science behind handwashing, please check out the CDC’s website here: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-handwashing.html

2)  Get your flu shot. The science behind the flu shot is robust. Getting your yearly vaccination can help avoid flu-related hospitalizations, illnesses, and transmitting the flu to others who are unable to obtain the vaccine (infants under 6 months or those with severe, life-threatening reactions to the flu vaccine).

3)  Aim for a regular sleep schedule, and if possible for 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

4)  Stay well hydrated- ideally (unless you have other significant medical conditions such as heart failure) aiming for about 6-8 glasses of water a day.

5)  Make sure you are aiming for those 4-5 fruits and vegetables a day, even during special occasions. If you overindulge, don’t beat yourself up, but aim for healthier, well balanced meal options in general.

6)  Be cautious with alcohol intake. We recommend no more than 7 drinks per week in women, and specifically no more than 2-3 drinks per day.

7)  Avoid contact with individuals that are sick to the best of your ability, and as above- make sure you wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading germs.

8)  Take time out for yourself to decompress; this may mean yoga, meditation, therapy, reading a good book, watching your favorite TV show, exercising, etc. Self-care and mindfulness is important.

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