Winterize Your Health
In cold weather your health and temperature changes. More cold and flu-like illnesses occur in cold weather, with a highly correlated with an increase in the number of upper respiratory infections (URIs) and a decrease in temperature. Chilling of the nose and upper respiratory tract by breathing cold air and acute chilling of the body’s surface can lower one’s resistance to infections.
Five Winter Health Tips
1. Hand washing or hand sanitizing – wash your hands or use an alcohol-based sanitizer before touching your food, eyes, nose, or mouth. Cover your sneeze or cough; carry tissues or use your forearm to block the spread of airborne pathogens.
2. Keep a safe distance from germs – coughs propel respiratory pathogens in large droplets up to six feet, while a sneeze may carry them in small particles that may stay suspended in the air; Stay home when you have a fever, cough or cold.
3. Get immunized – make the time and get immunized against common respiratory pathogens strep pneumonia and influenza
4. Rest and De-Stress – get daily rest (7-8 hours of sleep per night) and de-stress (meditation, reflection, visualization, breathing exercises, and or massage)
5. Diet and exercise – a combination of micro-nutrients found in unprocessed foods can aid your body in fighting infections- vitamins A, C, D, E, selenium and zinc. Mega-dose supplements are not recommended. Choose foods containing the vitamins you need.
– Vitamin A: green, orange, and yellow vegetables, as well as, fruits such as cantaloupes, apricots, and mangoes.
– Vitamin C: citrus fruits-lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit.
– Vitamin D: red & green peppers and broccoli.
– Vitamin E: most seeds and nuts
– Selenium: Brazil nuts and seafood
– Zinc: shellfish, beans, and peas
Exercise- try to get moderate exercise for 45 minutes, i.e. 10,000 steps daily, as well as resistance training several times/week. This can decrease the number of self-reported URIs.
If your immune system is compromised, you want to take a few additional precautions;
- Get tested for influenza if you have symptoms (ex. fever, nausea, etc.) – do it early (less than 48hours after symptoms begin or exposure to a person diagnosed with flu); if positive, you will be given influenza antiviral medication.
- Contact your physician if you have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea and trouble adhering to your antiviral regimen.
Authored by Dr. Debbie Morris-Harris, Prism Health North Texas Chief Medical Officer