It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting colder, days are getting shorter and every other person you meet has a runny nose or a cough. The time of year when our kids bring home all those nasty germs they catch from school, which inevitably get passed along to everyone in the family.
As a registered nurse (RN) in internal medicine, and mother of two school-aged children, I know all too well how quickly illness can spread. However, there are measures we can all take to prevent viruses from infiltrating our homes in the first place.
Nurse Sara’s Top 5 Ways to Stay Healthy:
1. Wash Your Hands
Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for approximately 20 seconds. Dry your hands with a paper towel and if possible, use the paper towel to turn off the faucet.
When to wash your hands:
- Before and after preparing food
- Before and after eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- After going to the bathroom
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After taking out the garbage
The best way to help your little ones learn to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds is to have them sing a fun song during hand washing. The Alphabet Song is around 20 seconds, as well as the Happy Birthday song twice.
2. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Part of staying healthy during cold and flu season is to make sure everyone is eating a healthy diet to support their immune system. A healthy diet is rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish and lean proteins. It’s also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
It’s important to get enough vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat, especially vitamin C, vitamin B6 and zinc for immune support.
If you have picky eaters, there are still things you can do. Try making them a yummy breakfast smoothie before school. I make one for my kids that includes almond milk, bananas, berries, spinach and Greek yogurt. This way, they are getting some healthy immune-boosting vitamins and minerals in their diet.
3. Make Your Home Healthy
Not only can viruses be passed around by other people who are sick, but your home can also harbor and transfer them. There are many ways that you can create a germ-free environment:
- Disinfect surfaces around your home, car and office
- Open windows to let in some fresh air
- Change out tooth brushes every three to four months and after any illness
- Change linens and pillowcases often during the fall and winter
- Run a humidifier at night to keep air from becoming dry
4. Decrease Stress
When you are stressed, your immune system’s ability to fight illness is reduced. During cold and flu season, you should have a few activities that you love doing on a regular basis.
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and boost the immune system. Take advantage of the beautiful parks and trials here in Southwest Washington for a calming stroll or a family bike ride. According to the City of Vancouver Parks and Recreation website, Vancouver alone has 90 parks, 20 natural areas, and a 20-mile network of trails.
Other ways to decrease stress include doing deep-breathing exercises, quietly meditating, taking a calming bath, reading, being in nature, doing yoga, and gratitude journaling.
5. Get Your Flu Shot
One of the best ways to avoid the flu this year is to get you and everyone in your family who is age 6 months and older vaccinated in the fall. Don’t forget that the flu vaccine takes up to 2 weeks for protection to develop after receiving the shot. The vaccine lasts approximately one year.
Prevention is Key
By simply taking these few preventative measures, you are far more likely to stay healthy and keep germs away. Choose to be proactive this cold and flu season with these simple tips from a nurse who truly cares about the well-being of you and your family.