Winter is a great time to travel if you enjoy colder weather, snow-capped mountains or hitting the slopes. But it also comes with its own set of common ailments that many of us find hard to avoid each year. Whether you are planning a road trip this winter and don’t want a sickness getting in the way of your good time – or simply want to stay healthy at home – there are steps you can take to help lower your chances of catching a cold or coming down with the flu.
In the December 23rd post, “Stress, Diet and Your Immune System,” we talked about the importance of regular exercise, a nutrient-rich diet and reducing stress as much as possible to boost your immune system. A healthy immune system is the foundation of staving off common illnesses, as well as recovering from them quicker when you do come down with one. But with colder temperatures keeping us indoors, and indoor air being a prime breeding ground for coughs, colds and germs, you will want to go a step further to help your body fight off the germs and viruses that are sure to come its way this season.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy should be at the top of your list of things to do to stay well this winter. Coupled with this is the common sense advice to wash your hands regularly and make sure co-workers, family members and friends are covering their coughs and sneezes to limit the spread of germs. When washing your hands, remember that frequency is a good thing during this cold season, and you want to scrub away for about 20 seconds to make sure you do a thorough job. While there is controversy over whether or not antibacterial hand soap is a help or a hindrance when fighting germs, keep in mind that the act of rubbing your hands together is part of what kills germs, so that 20 seconds of hand scrubbing is important whether or not you choose to go the antibacterial soap route.
If you feel a cold coming on in spite of your best efforts, you may want to consider taking Echinacea, which appears to shorten the duration of the common cold when taken early on, or heading to the health food store to pick up some Chinese medicinal herbs, which many people swear by and are available in some easy-to-find, over-the-counter remedies. There is also some evidence that taking vitamin D can help fend off the flu, which can also be held at bay by making sure you get vaccinated each year. Flu vaccinations are particularly important for susceptible populations, such as older adults, children and anyone with a compromised immune system.