AMARILLO Flu season seems to be particularly worrisome this year, according to news reports, especially since supplies of vaccine are running short.
Andrew Crocker, Texas Cooperative Extension gerontology health specialist, said there’s no need to panic. These common-sense health tips could help keep colds and flu at bay this winter, even if flu shots are not an option:
- Wash hands often. This simple act can be a big help in reducing instances of winter illnesses, Crocker said. “Most cold and flu germs are spread by direct contact,” he said. “If you were to sneeze into your hand and then touch a doorknob, the germs (from your sneeze, to your hand, to the doorknob) may stay on that doorknob for hours even days.” Washing hands will prevent germs from spreading from person to person this way.
- Cover sneezes and coughs. Using a tissue or handkerchief to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough will go a long way toward preventing the spread of germs, Crocker said. “Many people have the initial reaction to cover their nose or mouth with their hands when they sneeze or cough. … Germs cling to your bare hands muffling coughs and sneezes with your hands results in passing along your germs to others.” If a tissue or handkerchief isn’t handy, he suggested turning away from others and coughing into the air. “If you do cover a sneeze or cough with you hands,” Crocker said, “remember to wash your hands immediately.”
- Drink fluids, and lots of them. Fluids, and especially water, keeps the body hydrated and flushes impurities out, Crocker said. “Dehydration is a common occurrence with any illness, so remember to keep your fluid intake up,” he said. In addition to water, fruit juices can also help supply vitamins and minerals which can help keep healthy bodies healthy and help ill bodies in the healing process.
- Keep stress to a minimum. Recent studies show individuals who have a positive attitude are less likely to catch colds than individuals whose attitude is more negative, Crocker said. “People with a positive attitude may show fewer signs and symptoms of illness because healthy attitudes tend to promote healthy lifestyle habits,” he added.
- Sleep. Sleep is just a normal part of a daily routine for most people, but Crocker said it’s a lot more than that. Sleep “plays a very important role in your body’s ability to heal itself. … Sleep is very important for so many of the functions of the body, but especially in the role of illness prevention.” In fact, experts from the Mayo Clinic say, sleep refreshes the body, improves attitude, provides energy and boosts immune system, thereby reducing risk of illness.
The National Sleep Foundation (http://www.sleepfoundation.org) offered these tips for healthy sleep:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule to help keep the body’s natural rhythm in balance.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, which can all have negative effects on sleep.
- Don’t go to bed on a full stomach. Too much food and/or drink before bed makes lying in bed less comfortable, and may also cause frequent awakenings.
- Get plenty of good exercise, but finish workouts at least three hours before bedtime.
- Relax before going to bed. Try soaking in a warm bath, reading or listening to soothing music.
- Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress in a room that’s dark, quiet, cool and comfortable, and free of interruptions.
- Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep. Instead, get up and do something relaxing, such as reading.
- Daytime naps should be short and sweet no more than 20 or 30 minutes. And if you do come down with the flu, experts from the Mayo Clinic advise getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids and taking antiviral medication if prescribed by your doctor. And above all, don’t go to work, school or anywhere else you might spread the disease to others. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/index.cfm)