We all know someone who, despite the change of seasons or bugs going around, seems to never get sick. Are they just lucky, or are they doing something different that helps them stay healthy all year? Maybe it's the former, but the chances are that they just have better winter health habits than most people.
To help you become one of these 'lucky people, here's a look at some winter health habits that should keep you fighting fit throughout the colder months.
The Cold and Sickness
There seems to be no direct link between cold weather and getting sick, as illness is caused by bacteria and viruses. However, humans tend to produce more mucus when we’re cold, and if we become infected, sneezes and coughs transmit micro-organisms even easier.
The cold air also helps viruses traveling in liquid particles survive and remain airborne for longer, meaning they’re more easily breathed in. Spending more time indoors in close contact with people who may be infected also increases your chances of becoming sick.
Dressing for Colder Air
What puts you at higher risk of contracting a cold or flu in the winter is the contact of cold air with your respiratory mucous membranes, not your skin. When it comes to dressing appropriately in winter, experts suggest wearing several thin, warm layers that insulate better against the cold and can be removed to adjust for temperature changes.
Dressing appropriately based on activity is important too; preparing for a day outside in the cold is different to preparing for a day indoors, where you probably have plenty of heat.
Become a Clean Freak
Very few things will help prevent winter illnesses more than becoming a bit of a clean freak will. Specifically you should:
- Wash your hands more regularly.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Make sure all rooms are well ventilated.
- Wipe down door handles and surfaces more frequently.
- Use the sanitizer wipes provided at most grocery stores before handling your shopping cart.
- Avoid the crowds: During peak cold and flu season, avoid overcrowded shopping malls, pharmacies, and doctors’ waiting rooms. You’re less likely to fall ill if you steer clear of sick people.
Don’t Wait, Vaccinate
Medical professionals recommend vaccinating against the flu every flu season. Even very healthy people can contract flu, fall ill, and spread it to others. The flu vaccine is not a guarantee you won't get flu, as it only protects against the viruses that were used to make it; these are usually the most common ones during the upcoming flu season. But if you do get infected with another strain your symptoms are likely to be milder. This means less sick days and time off work and less misery in general.
On average, men should consume half a gallon of water daily, while women should consume a little less to maintain healthy winter hydration levels. You don't have to drink that all in one go though.
Instead always have water at hand and take regular sips. And remember, as tasty as it is that pumpkin spice coffee won't keep you hydrated, as coffee actually dehydrates, rather than hydrates, your body.
Regular exercise strengthens your immune system so you can fight infections. When you exercise and get your blood pumping, immune cells circulate through your body more quickly to destroy infections. This boost only lasts a few hours though, so exercise regularly for long-term effects.
Exercise also helps keep seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression at bay by releasing the 'happy' hormone serotonin. Just 45 minutes of daily exercise can change your entire outlook on winter, and help keep you healthier right through the colder months and into the spring.