- Wash your hands often - Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis is credited with discovering in the late 1840's that hand washing saves lives. We now know that a truly thorough hand washing actually takes at least 20 seconds. (Time yourself the next time you wash your hands and see how long 20 seconds is - you may be surprised!) Be sure to use warm water and to scrub the surface of your hands well. You may also want to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you for when washing your hands is not an option.
- Cover your mouth and nose if you sneeze or cough - Try not to spread any extra germs around, if possible. While instinct may prod you to use your hand as a cover, it is actually more healthy to use a tissue, or even the crook of your elbow. If you can keep from touching your face with your hands, it will provide additional protection from germs.
- Stay warm - While being in the cold itself is not going to necessarily make you sick, it does take more effort for your body to keep warm. This additional effort can divert energy your body would normally use to fend off germs - making you more likely to become ill. Hypothermia can also be a concern during the coldest months of the year, and is a special risk for the elderly and children.
- Manage your stress level - The holidays are one of the most stressful times of year! Try to take some extra time for yourself to relax and get plenty of sleep. Additionally, remember that overspending can be a big contributor to your stress level, so create a reasonable budget for your holiday spending.
- Travel safely - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in December 2010, almost 3,000 people died in car crashes and 30% of these involved a driver under the influence of alcohol. Buckle up when you are on the road and don't drink and drive! The holidays are a prime time for parties, so be sure to plan ahead for a designated driver before you head out to that gathering.
For more information on how to stay healthy this winter, check out these helpful links:
- NIH News in Health: When the Weather Gets Cold - This article has some additional information about fighting joint pains, staying hydrated, and dealing with diseases that are often made more difficult in cold weather.
- FDA: Get Set for Winter Illness Season - Tips on identifying cold and flu symptoms, along with ways to prevent becoming ill, are provided here.
- Arlington, TX: Winter and Holiday Health Hazards for Animals: People aren't the only ones who can be adversely affected during this time of year! This article has good information on how to keep your furry friend happy and healthy this holiday season.
Do you have any winter health tips that you can share? Please feel free to give us more ideas in the comments area!