I’ve noticed we are back to full force cold and flu season with many different viruses dominating this Fall: influenza A, parainfluenza, RSV and covid are the main ones I see frequently.
Influenza A has been particularly nasty this season so please be sure to consider vaccination to reduce the risk of serious disease. Covid has become much more mild with so many people having natural or vaccine induced immunity (or both!). RSV has also been quite nasty this year, especially for infants and toddlers but even adults are getting quite sick and feeling miserable with RSV. There is no vaccine or treatment other than supportive care for RSV. Pediatric hospitals are full and have been for several weeks.
So with that in mind, I thought I would put together a little how to on staying health for winter:
How to stay healthy for next to no money! This will focus on preventative measures you can do that are either free or cost very little. Consider adding some (or all) to your routine.
1) Drink 60-90 oz water per day. Your body is 70+% water and you need to be well hydrated to function. Winter has low humidity dry air, and the furnace doesn’t help. You need at least 60 oz to stay at your best which is about 2 liters.
2) Floss. OMG this is so tedious and boring to me. Yet so satisfying. Honestly oral health is very important as your mouth is one of your first lines of defense. Care for it. In addition to brushing, flossing removes excess food particles and bacteria. Then rinse with mouthwash. Not only will be feeling fresh for all those holiday parties, you’ll also be investing in your health now and the in the future. Poor oral health can lead to serious disease conditions like endocarditis in some people and increases your risk for dentures and periodontal disease. I see so many rotted teeth and horrible dental nerve pain in the ER. It really pays to invest in oral care.
3) Take 2,000-5,000 units daily vitamin D in the winter months. Most people are deficient or near deficient even and the end of summer when levels are at their peak and Vitamin D plays a vital role in the body for cancer prevention (colon, breast, prostate) and immune function. It is a very complex and much needed hormone. I like the nature made supplement brand or Costco’s Kirkland brand since they are USP verified. Bonus points if you throw in a daily multivitamin. Studies have not shown these to be effective in producing anything other than high quality urine outside the winter months. But for winter, they do improve immune health.
4) Take care of your gut with a probiotic. Probiotics taken in the fall through winter have been shown to decrease the incidence of upper respiratory infections and sinusitis by 30-40% which is pretty incredible. The most common types are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus thermophilus. These should be in a form where they are kept alive and well- i.e. supplements need refrigeration. I get these from Kombucha, but you can certainly find it in pill form or other foods like yogurts as well. The key is keeping the strain consistent and daily dosing (or aim for at least 5 times a week)
5) Sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours per night.
6) Don’t over commit. Ahhhh, holiday parties. Work parties, friend parties, social events, and functions. Everyone wants to celebrate. Pick a few that you really want to attend. Sit on the couch and relax the rest of the season while everyone else runs around stressed out.
7) Exercise. Well…. Don’t sit on the couch too much. Aim for 150 minutes of cardio a week. Extra credit for weight bearing exercise like weightlifting, pilates, yoga. And yes, walking counts for cardio. Even 10 minute walks count if you get to 150 minutes total a week.
8) Neti pot or nasal saline rinse. Doing the neti pot or saline rinse in each nostril daily also helps moisturize and rinse the sinuses. It will also help break up mucus, lubricate sinuses, remove debris, viruses, and bacteria.
These next two are a bit more pricey than “nearly free” but might be worth it to some:
9) Get a seasonal bright light. Cloudy, gray, cold and dark at 4:30 PM. Love those Midwest winters! Light therapy improves both your mood and your immune function during winters. I’ll include a link to one here in case anyone is getting their holiday list ready. Any light like this will do though. This is the one recommended to me by a psychiatrist colleague: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00PCN4UVU/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?smid=A1M5EIC3PTHQ2U&psc=1
10) Humidifier or steamer. It’s important to keep your mucosal linings of your nose, throat, and lungs moist and the dry air does not help. Consider investing in a humidifier and running it during winter or getting a facial steamer and doing this daily. Run your humidifier at night while you are sleeping.
We are wishing everyone a healthy winter season, but you know where to find us if you need us!