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Tips to help you stay healthy this cold and flu season

Every year, about 9% of our country’s population will come down with influenza during the winter months. Why? During colder months, we’re inside more, we get less sunlight, and stress from the holiday season wears us down. If we’re around someone who has the flu…watch out! The flu is spread by droplets from an infected person when they sneeze, cough or talk, or by touching an object with the flu virus on it. Droplets can travel up to six feet, and germs live on surfaces for about eight hours. Bleh!

Of course the best way to avoid getting sick is to avoid the germs altogether.

Anyone who gets the flu should stay home, however people are usually contagious a day before they show symptoms, and remain contagious for three to five days. It’s important then to practice good hygiene yourself and in your environment to prevent getting sick. Here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands frequently, under warm water with soap, at least 20 seconds when you enter a new environment, when you eat, and after you use the bathroom. Hand sanitizer can be used in a pinch, but is not as effective as good old soap and water.

  • Keep your hands off your face.

  • Sanitize surfaces. A surface spray made of two tablespoons vinegar, a few drops of oil of oregano, thieves or tea tree oil, and 16 ounces of water will kill flu virus germs. Spray surfaces that are often touched, like light switches, the TV remote, door knobs, phones, and counter tops

  • Use a humidifier: flu viruses circulate less effectively in humid environments. Plus, adding moisture to the air will keep mucus membranes moist and healthy.

It’s also important to give your immune system a boost. A healthy body has what it needs to fight off that flu bug. Here are some things you can do:

1. Yes, it may be cold outside, but bundle up and go out anyway! Sunshine provides us with Vitamin D which helps with your immune system and calcium absorption.

2. Get your sleep! A regular schedule of seven to nine hours of shut-eye keeps you from getting run down and unable to fight off a virus.

3. Drink your water. Water naturally flushes wastes and toxins out of our body. Herbal teas, lemon water or broth will also do the trick. Just avoid beverages with sugar, caffeine and alcohol – which can disrupt your rest and actually dehydrate you.

4. Exercise helps your immune system function its best, and improves circulation, generating antibodies and blood cell production needed to fight off infections. Walking for 20 minutes, five days a week is perfect.

5. Eat right, especially your fruits and veggies, which support a healthy immune system. Your target is six to eight servings a day.

6. See your care provider regularly. A well-person visit is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Your care provider can work with you on prevention activities, and of course help you treat problem conditions. Remember, colds and flu are viruses, so if you do get sick, your care provider will not prescribe antibiotics, but can give you help dealing with symptoms.

Here's to a happy and healthy winter season!

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