Staying healthy is priority number one! And this year it seems more pressing than usual. But during these cold winter months that seems nearly impossible! Everywhere you go people are coughing, sniffling and sneezing. Your kids are picking up every bug at school and bringing them home to you! Who has time to be sick? Who wants to be laid up in bed missing work (and fun)?
I know I don’t! With 5 kids I’ve had to become a master at keeping the germs at bay. It’s pretty rare that we get sick and if we do it’s typically quick and mild in comparison to the symptoms everyone else has. So, here are my BEST tips for keeping your family healthy throughout cold and flu season!
1. Wash Your Hands
I know! You’ve heard this a million times! But it is the number 1 way to safeguard your health, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it.
When proper hand washing facilities aren’t available use hand sanitizer. However, washing your hands is preferable and best for your overall health, if you’re doing it properly. So, what’s the right way to wash your hands?
Thorough Hand Washing Technique
- Dampen hands
- Lather with soap
- Be sure to wash your wrists and between your fingers
- Sing the ABC’s slowly while washing
- Rinse well
This will ensure a thorough washing. Most people don’t wash long enough and don’t get their entire hand clean. This allows for easy transference of germs.
When to Wash
Everyone should wash their hands before and after handling food, garbage or pet food and treats, immediately upon arriving home, and after using the bathroom or changing diapers! And of course, if anyone in your home is already sick, they should wash their hands as frequently as possible, especially after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing. Anyone caring for them should also wash their hands immediately after providing assistance. Keeping the person who is infected separated from the rest of the family (including pets) will help prevent the spread of the illness. And teaching everyone to sneeze or cough into the crook of their elbow will help control the spread of germs as well.
2. Keep Your Hands Off Your Face
The average person touches their face approximately 3000 times a day! Yes, you read that right! This is a great way to transfer germs into your respiratory system (not to mention cause breakouts).
Try to avoid touching your face or rubbing your eyes or nose without a tissue and whatever you do keep your hands out of your mouth! If you’re a nail biter break that habit asap! It’s jeopardizing your health!
Most people don’t even notice when they’re touching their face or even sitting with their face in their hands. It’s a habit we aren’t even aware of, which makes it that much more difficult to break! Ask others to point it out to you or consider taking up a hobby that keeps your hands busy. It’s very difficult to touch your face if both hands are occupied crocheting, knitting or doing needlework. These crafts aren’t just for women and they also help stave off arthritis and reduce stress. Plus, the creations are super trendy again and can be used by your family or even sold for some extra income!
3. Be Careful Where You Set Your Belongings
How many times have you gone into someone’s house and seen their purse sitting on their counter or kitchen table? Well, that’s no different than putting your shoes there! We often take our purses into public restrooms and set the on the floor in restaurants. Your purse is likely filthy and contaminated! Treat it no differently than your shoes!
And for that matter… have you considered how gross your cell phone is? You can wipe it down with an alcohol pad, bleach wipe or peroxide wipe. Just because you can’t immerse it in water doesn’t mean you can’t clean it! Cell phones go everywhere with most of us and we are constantly touching them (with both clean and dirty hands). Disinfecting your phone will help keep you healthy and will keep a minor cold from getting worse or coming back!
4. Disinfect Your House
While we’re on the subject of disinfecting, there’s a lot more of that to keep up with! On a regular basis, especially during cold and flu season, you should be disinfecting your home. You can make your own wipes or use hydrogen peroxide or bleach wipes. ALWAYS wear gloves to protect your skin while disinfecting! Be sure to wipe down any commonly touched surfaces, such as…
- Doorknobs & cabinet pulls
- Light switches
- Faucets handles
- Toilet flushers
- Remote controls
- Keyboards & Laptops
This is a quick and easy task. Simply go around your house and wipe down anything you can think of that’s frequently handled!
5. Don’t Share
Don’t share food, drinks, forks, or anything else that might be contaminated! It doesn’t matter if you both appear to be healthy! You could be contagious without showing any symptoms. In our house this is a consistent rule. It’s very easy for sharing to become a habit. Once it does it’s difficult to break so it’s best not to start it in the first place!
Also, be sure to wash ALL your dishes daily! My husband and son both like to drink out of the same glass all day. They often forget to put them in the dishwasher and will reinfect themselves with colds they have recently recovered from!
We also use the sanitize setting on our dishwasher every night. If you have it, I recommend you use it!
6. Change Linens
Throughout cold and flu season be sure to swap out and wash hand towels and other shared linens frequently!
In addition, if anyone in your house has been sick try to keep them to their room or only one room in the house. My kids usually liked being in the living room so they could be close to me. So, I would cover the couch with sheets and make a little bed for them. That way the bedding could be easily washed.
Try to avoid using throw pillows or lying directly on upholstered surfaces. It can be very difficult to clean these areas thoroughly.
Humidifiers are a great way to prevent illness and kill germs!
Often, we are more likely to get sick in the winter because of the cold dry air. Just like your lips and skin get chapped so do your mucus membranes. The surfaces of the inside of your nose and throat are covered in a filmy, sticky mucus that traps germs as they try to enter your body. In the winter that mucus dries and the inside of your nose and throat get microscopic cracks that are just big enough for germs to weasel in! Keeping these areas moist helps protect your body from unwelcome invaders. Using a humidifier does just that!
Recent research has also shown that the flu virus, in particular, struggles to thrive in a humid environment. These studies showed that even when humidifiers were present only in bedrooms there was a lower survival rate for the flu virus throughout the entire house!
8. Spend Time Outdoors
Get yourself outside! I know there are many old wives tales about “catching your death” in cold or rainy weather. This simply isn’t true!
If the weather is safe (meaning no lightening and not too cold) head outdoors for a brisk walk around the block. Fresh air does the body a world of good! There are countless health benefits to spending time outdoors. One of them is getting out of the indoor, stale, germy air!
9. Heal Your Gut
Yes, healing your gut really is a miracle remedy!
Your gut and microbiome are very impactful to the function of your immune system. Healing your gut can help to bolster your immune system and keep you healthy! Not only that but it reduces inflammation, improves the overall quality of your life and helps prevent long term chronic disease as well! (To learn more, follow my link)
10. Body Brush
I wrote a detailed piece about body brushing last summer! You know why? Because it also helps reduce the appearance of cellulite!
The same techniques used in that piece help increase lymphatic flow and circulation. This helps stimulate your immune system which prevents illness! Since your lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like your circulatory system it is much more difficult to maintain good lymphatic flow. But because the lymph system is close to the skin body brushing can help.
11. Avoid Recreational Substances
If you smoke, drink or use other substances you should strongly consider quitting. If that isn’t an option for you, at least cut back!
All recreational substances are toxic or irritating to the body in some way. They weaken us and make us more susceptible to illness. Your body being in peak condition to fight off whatever bug might invade is the priority!
12. Eat Healthy
Eating a nutrient dense diet is imperative to good health, including staving off colds and flus! Focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to get a variety of immune supporting vitamins and minerals. Maintaining a healthy diet throughout the year will keep your body strong and enable you to fight off any invaders you come in contact with.
You may also want to consider intermittent fasting. It’s been shown to bolster your immune system. It’s not a difficult change to make to your eating routine but it pays off in many ways!
Establishing and maintaining a great sleep routine and getting plenty of rest is integral to good health and productivity! While you’re sleeping your body is very busy clearing out unwanted bugs and recovering from your daily activities. Regardless of what else you do on this list, if you aren’t getting good restful sleep, you’re sure to get sick!
Respecting your natural circadian rhythm will ensure a higher quality of sleep. So, even if you are a night owl it’s particularly important during cold and flu season to try to get to bed and wake early. It’s best to do this around the same time everyday (even weekends). I know… I don’t like it either but it’s true!
Last but certainly not least, be sure to consume enough fluids everyday to stay well hydrated, especially water! During the summer we tend to get hot and thirsty and are likely to get plenty of fluids in. But often in the cold winter months we gravitate towards food and hot caffeinated beverages and neglect our water intake!
Having a large reusable water bottle that you keep full and take wherever you go will certainly help you get enough fluids into your day. And when you’re craving something hot, opt for caffeine free herbal tea (or decaf coffee).
Hydrating not only supports your immune system but it helps to flush out any germs trying to take up residence in your body!
Keep Yourself Healthy
If you follow the simple steps above, you’re much less likely to get sick. But if you do, be sure to seek medical care. If you suspect you have the flu or Coronavirus (COVID-19) contact your doctor to report your symptoms as soon as possible and follow their instructions about where to go for care. Then, STAY HOME, keep to yourself, get plenty of rest and take care. Whenever possible avoid taking over the counter treatments unless recommended by your doctor. They will only mask the symptoms and tempt you to do more than you should!
The very best way to avoid getting sick is to avoid contact with people who are already ill or carrying a bug. What better way to do that than to share this with everyone you know and help them avoid illness this year too!