Winter is cold and flu season. It’s not the weather that makes us sick; rather, we naturally spend more time confined indoors and exposed to germs and other people. Researchers have also discovered that viruses survive and shed better in cold, dry conditions. Here are four steps you can take to keep your family healthy this winter.
Practice Good Hand Hygiene
Wash your hands with soap and water frequently in winter. And don’t just give them a quick spritz. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds — the equivalent of singing Happy Birthday twice — every time you wash, making sure to get in between each finger and under each nail. You might also carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer around with you if soap and water aren’t available.
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If possible, wash your hands every time you shake someone’s hand or, even better, avoid shaking hands with people altogether. Wash your hands before eating, after blowing your nose or sneezing, after being near anyone who’s sick, and after using the restroom. Around the home and office, take time to wipe down and sanitize high-hand-traffic areas such as light switches, door knobs, and countertops in common areas.
Leading a Healthy Lifestyle
To keep your immune system strong and avoid exposure to pathogens, you should eat and live healthily. This means no smoking, getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly (which boosts immunity), staying hydrated, and eating well-rounded, nutritious meals that include lots of immune-boosting fruits and vegetables. It’s also a good idea to consider getting vaccinated against viruses such as influenza.
Maintaining Your HVAC System
Viruses are airborne, which means your heating and cooling system can play a big role in your exposure to cold and flu particles. So make sure your HVAC system is in good running order to circulate air consistently and keep it fresh. You might also have a whole house humidifier installed to prevent the air from becoming too dry, as moisture in the air can help slow virus spread. Both of these tasks might require a professional servicing your HVAC.
Make sure you’re changing your air filters at least monthly. These filters are responsible for removing air particles from your house. Dirty and neglected filters can actually increase your risk of catching a cold or the flu. Choose a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter for maximum air purification.
Staying Home When Sick
If you or your family members are starting to show telltale signs of a cold or flu (coughing, sneezing, congestion, sore throat), stay home from work or school to prevent spreading your sickness. Drink at least eight glasses of fluids a day and rest up. Make sure you get at least eight to 10 hours of sleep at night when you’re under the weather. And if your symptoms start to get really bad, see a doctor.
Staying healthy this winter doesn’t have to be rocket science. Follow these four tips for your best shot at staying cold- and flu-free — your family will thank you for it.