The flu is particularly bad this year and is spreading across most states in the U.S. Avoiding contact with people who are contagious is a good start, but here are a few common-sense tips for your family to avoid getting sick this year.
1. Wash Hands Often
When the weather turns cold, people tend to spend more time indoors and in closer quarters, which means sharing more germs with one another. Make sure you teach your kids to wash their hands often, especially if they have been in contact with someone showing signs of an illness. They should also wash their hands before and after preparing food, before eating, and after using the restroom, sneezing or blowing their noses, and taking out the trash.
- Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (according to CDC recommendations, it takes that long to dislodge stubborn germs).
- Buy a bottle of hand sanitizer for when you can’t wash your hands immediately. Use it when you or your kids touch something that has been handled a lot, like doorknobs, keyboards, light switches, bathroom doors—even things you might not expect, like restaurant menus, can harbor germs!
2. Avoid Touching Your Eyes or Mouth
Staying away from germs and avoiding contact with others who are sick can be difficult, so the second line of defense is to not let any germs into your system. Avoid touching your face anytime you’ve come in contact with possible germs until you can wash your hands.
3. Stay Warm
Being cold won’t cause you to become sick but the weather does influence the spread of viruses like the flu. Experts say the flu spreads and survives better in colder, less humid air. So if the weather is cold and dry in your area, you’ll want to be even more wary of catching a virus. And according to a study by scientists at Yale, “cold viruses thrive much better at lower temperatures inside the nose.” Apparently it’s harder for our noses to fight the germs if it’s cold. So bundling up and staying warm, may help defend against these winter viruses.
4. Eat Healthy Foods
You and your kids need proper nutrition to stay healthy and avoid getting sick. Eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals. A good rule of thumb is to make your plate colorful by incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Hydration is important too, so teach your kids to drink plenty of water (not sugary sodas). Incorporating a healthy diet should contribute to a healthy immune system.
In some studies, scientist have determined that people who exercise may be better able to fight off germs. “We strongly believe that long-term, regular exercise can considerably improve the immune defense mechanism against viral infections such as colds and the flu,” Dr. Yoonkyung Park, a science professor at Chosun University, told The New York Times. And circulation is good for your system, so do your best to get your heart rate up at least four times a week. If working out isn’t your thing, try a fitness challenge or find other fun ways to keep your family active during the winter.
6. Get Plenty of Sleep
Now more than ever, it is critical for adults to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night—and kids need even more. The body makes more white blood cells during the sleep cycle, and it is these cells that attack cold and flu viruses. Try getting your kids to bed a little earlier. Read a book rather than using electronic devices before sleeping. Establish a bedtime routine to ensure your child gets enough sleep.
7. Take a Day Off
If you or your child starts feeling ill, pay attention to the symptoms and stay home if necessary. Don’t make your body work harder than it needs to. Get that needed rest to fight off the germs early on. And you don’t want to spread any germs you may have to others.
Keep these healthy habits to avoid getting sick this season!
Image credit: “Woman With Cold Sneezing Into Tissue” by David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net