How to Stay Healthy & Safe This Winter
We’re all hoping COVID-19 will not strike nearly as hard this winter as it did last winter. But even if it doesn’t, the cold and flu season is about to kick in.
Many of us have become used to protecting ourselves from viral diseases. Mainly through frequent hand washing, mask-wearing and social distancing.
So we already know how to improve our chances of avoiding colds and the flu, which are also respiratory illnesses. But as the number of new coronavirus cases has slowly dropped lately, some of us may be letting our guards down.
I understand this. We’re all sick and tired of trying to avoid being sick and tired. But today I want to stress the importance of staying vigilant this fall and winter. Here are some ways we can do that.
Inside and Outside Your Home
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds. Do a thorough job each time, washing between your fingers, the backs of your hands and under your nails. Water temperature is not as important as the act of scrubbing. Use an alcohol-based sanitizing gel if no soap is available.
- Limit your contact with people outside your home. Even if they appear to be healthy, they may be infected but aren’t displaying any symptoms yet. Don’t shake hands with them or hug them.
- Stay away from people you know are sick. They should be in their own home, but that’s not always the case. If you have to be around people who are ill, try to keep your distance.
- Wear a mask covering your nose and mouth when you are out in public places.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes, especially before washing your hands. Germs spread very quickly this way.
- When you cough or sneeze, use a tissue and dispose of it properly and quickly. Coughs and sneezes are two of the main ways viruses spread so easily.
- Get enough sleep to keep yourself strong. And drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, avoiding processed foods and too much sugar.
- Get plenty of exercise. Aim for about 30 minutes per day when possible.
- Avoid large gatherings. If you do have to be in a group of people, practice physical distancing.
- Keep frequently-touched surfaces in your home clean and disinfected. Pay special attention to surfaces on which food is prepared.
- Manage your stress level. This is much easier said than done for some people. Try to keep your thoughts positive and don’t spend too much time engrossed in the news, which is dominated by negative information.
- If you feel sick, stay home. Resting at home is the best thing for you, and it’s certainly the best for other people who you might have otherwise come into contact with.
In the workplace
If you work at a business rather than remotely, practice those same habits in the workplace. Find out what safety precautions your employer is taking to keep you and other employees healthy.
If you’re concerned your employer is not doing enough, take it upon yourself to clean and disinfect surfaces you and others need to touch. Including doorknobs, light switches, keyboards and phones.
Unless you live in a bubble, it is impossible to avoid every germ floating around out there.
But taking care of your body and doing the right things to avoid those germs will give you a much better chance of staying healthy during the upcoming cold and flu season.
Ice & Snow Concerns
Winter presents other hazards besides colds and the flu. There are potential injuries to watch out for.
If you live in a cold climate, make sure to sprinkle plenty of salt on your sidewalk and driveway to melt ice. A nasty fall can result in a hospital visit or stay.
Every year we hear about people having heart attacks from shoveling snow. Drink plenty of water before you step out to shovel. But avoid caffeine, which can put an extra strain on your heart.
Pace yourself and take frequent breaks. And don’t try to move too much snow at one time. You’re better off with a smaller shovel. Or at least only partially filling a larger shovel. Bend from the knees and keep your legs bent when you lift.
Frostbite & Hypothermia
Other ways winter can make you miserable are frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite can cause permanent physical damage. In extreme cases, it can even lead to amputation.
Frostbite symptoms include loss of feeling and loss of color. It usually occurs on the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. You’re more likely to suffer from frostbite if you have circulation problems. Or if you are not dressed properly for conditions.
Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Low body temperatures happen when your body is exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time.
Symptoms can include bright red, cold skin and low energy. As well as shivering, exhaustion and confusion. Plus fumbling hands, memory loss, drowsiness, or slurred speech.
Finally, watch out for carbon monoxide poisoning this winter. This can occur when a gas-powered generator is mistakenly used indoors or too close to an open window. Invisible and odorless, it can cause loss of consciousness or even death.
Staying healthy and safe should be our top priority this winter. Let’s take care of ourselves.