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5 forgotten ways to stay well this winter

Health and Wellness, Human Interest

You and your family live busy lives. You don’t want to waste a minute being sick. But as winter sets in around the Northwest, cold and influenza viruses seem to be everywhere, just waiting to attack.

You’ve probably heard this, but here’s a refresher of the top ways to help everyone stay well:

  • Get your flu shot
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Cover your cough

We hear about these frontline defenses so often we may forget to make choices each day that help us avoid winter illnesses. Even though these may not be your first thought for staying well, these tips can support your immune system and are easy to try.

Easy ways to boost your immunity

Take a long winter’s nap: That may mean an actual nap, but the best option is to get a good night’s rest. For adults, that means seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Children need eight to 15 hours a night, depending on their age. To help you meet your target, establish cozy winter routines at night like regular bedtimes, screens and phones turned off early, and lower household temperatures at night.

Get a C average: Make sure you and your family are getting enough vitamin C. This essential nutrient supports your immune system in many ways. The best way to get yours is to regularly eat vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables. While oranges and other citrus immediately come to mind, you’ll also find lots of vitamin C in blueberries, kale, broccoli, kiwi, mangoes, orange and red bell peppers, and sundried tomatoes — a basic rainbow of fresh goodness.

Drink up: Your body relies on water to help it flush germs from your body. Despite the rain outside, it’s hard to stay hydrated in the winter, especially inside heated buildings. Dry indoor air has also been linked to the spread of serious viruses even in super-clean hospital environments. In addition to making sure you’re drinking plenty of water, think about eating hydrating foods like cucumbers, lettuce, strawberries, grapes and soup. Avoid salty snacks and dried fruit.

Power up your shower: The warm, moist conditions that cause soap scum and mildew to develop in your shower are perfect for the growth of bacteria and viruses as well. When hot water hits your shower and bath walls, germs can be aerosolized for you to breathe. You can help your family stay well by keeping all your bathroom surfaces cleaned regularly with hot, soapy water. White vinegar helps disinfect surfaces too. Be careful of using harsh chemicals that may stress your respiratory system.

Chill out: While we don’t entirely understand how stress impacts the immune system, it’s clear that both acute and chronic stress makes it harder for your body to protect itself from illness. Noncompetitive activities release chemicals that boost your mood and release your stress. Winter is also a great time to indulge in a massage or a warm bubble bath. And don’t forget to look for three positive moments in each day and share those with a loved one or write them in a gratitude journal.

If you do get sick

If, despite all your best efforts, you or a loved one comes down sick with cold or flu-like symptoms, give your primary care provider’s office a call before you go racing in. Most viral illnesses just need lots of rest and time rather than a trip to the doctor. If you’re an established patient, this is also a great time to use Adventist Health Portland’s SmartExame-visits. You can get the care you need from your phone or computer while you stay cozy in your pajamas.

Your primary care provider is a great resource for additional ways to support your immune system. They know best your unique health needs and lifestyle situation, so be sure to get your annual wellness exam.

If you don’t have an Adventist Health Portland primary care provider, give us a call at (503) 261-6929. We will help you find a provider who fits your needs.