Avoid Getting Sick!

Here's how to beat those nasty cold and flu bugs!

Everyone knows what a cold is.  It often starts with that scratchy feeling in your throat.  Then for about a week you sneeze and cough while your nose runs, your head aches and your eye water.  You mayHead ColdCredit: backpacker.com even have a touch of fever at first.  It’s hard to work and hard to play, but usually you want to try anyway.

You what the flu is, too.  It feels like a cold, but worse, with chills and muscle aches to boot. 

Basically, colds and the flu are infections of the upper respiratory tract.  Researchers have found that the viruses that cause these infections are airborne, and that you’re most apt to succumb to them when your body’s natural defenses against infection are low. 

Colds and the flu seem as much a part of winter as ice and snow, and there are a number of reasons.  People spend more time indoors, where viruses spread readily through the air and personal contact.  Central heating causes our homes to be hot and dry, which irritates mucous membranes, reducing their ability to protect against viral infection.  Moreover, because many of us avoid spending time outdoors, we tend to be less fit in winter; and because we eat fewer fruits and vegetables, we’re less well nourished.  As well, cold weather makes us more subject to chills.  Some people are more likely to fall ill-for instance, young children generally average less colds a year because their immune systems are immature.

Avoid Viruses

If you aren’t exposed to a virus, you won’t be infected.  To minimize exposure avoid crowded places and contact with people who have colds.  Cold and flu viruses can be transmitted by touch, so it’s wise to wash your hands often, especially before eating.  Use a hand sanitizer constantly.

Spend Time Outdoors

Though cold weather often causes people to stay indoors, getting out can help you avoid viruses since they are dispersed by fresh air.  Under normal winter conditions, even a child with a mild cold is better off outdoors.

Keep Your Mucous Membranes Healthy

If you have healthy mucous membranes, you can resist viruses.  The mucous linings in your mouth, nose, sinuses and throat help prevent infections by trapping viruses and rendering them harmless through the release of natural antiviral substances.

Try to maintain a higher level of humidity, invest in a humidifier and turn the heat down.

Eliminate irritants that can interfere with the natural functioning of mucous membranes.  Don’t allow smoking in your home and use an air purifier to remove pollen, dust, cat hairs, cigarette smoke, and other irritants from the air.  If you have allergies, ask your doctor how they can best be controlled.

Eat Wisely

Keep yourself well nourished and eat healthy.  Eat four to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, two servings of meat and alternates, three to five servings of bread and cereals and two to three servings of milk or milk product.  Try to buy what is in season but if you cannot buy fresh fruit and vegetables, then use canned or frozen.  Cook fresh fruits and vegetables as soon as possible as the longer you wait to cook the more nutrients you will lose.  Make sure you don’t overcook your vegetables as well.  Use variety in your diet and plan your meals carefully.  The key is having good eating habits.

Stay Fit

The fitter you are, the less likely a virus is to get a hold on you.  Make exercise an important part of your daily routine, even in cold weather.  Get outside; jog, walk, cross-country ski or go skating.  Have a back up for indoor exercising such as; swimming, working out, and attending exercise classes.  Check out your local gym for the latest in exercise classes. 

Because chills lower you resistance to viral infections, it’s important to dress for warmth.  Wear a hat and scarf outdoors as covering your neck reduces the chances of catching a cold, and a hat keeps heat from escaping from the top of your head.

Dress in layers when exercising outdoors so you can remove items of clothing as you warm up.  Choose garments made of natural fibers such as cotton and wool, as they absorb perspiration and prevent chills.  Overdressing causes the body to seat excessively and the combination of moisture and cold air can give you a chill.

Avoid using alcohol to keep warm.  Alcohol warms you in the short term but it can cause hypothermia (a drop in blood temperature).  So play it safe; leave the cocktails at home and warm up with exercise! 

Listen to Your Body

Most of us don’t pay enough attention to ourselves.  We are each different and we need to pay attention to warning signs.   If you start feeling rotten, then start taking steps to care for yourself.

If You Get the Bug

If you come down with a cold or the flu, admit it, you are sick!  Take time off of work as soon as you start feeling it coming on.  This will also protect your co-workers.  Colds and the flu are most contagious in the first two or three days.  Keep children home from school if they show signs of coming down with something. 

Use over-the-counter medications moderately and remember that alcohol and cold remedies do not mix.  As your doctor what types of nonprescription drugs he recommends for adults and children. 

Drink plenty of liquids to replace body fluids and don’t forget to eat wisely.

While there is much controversy about the relationship vitamin C bears to colds, scientists generally agree that vitamin C doesn’t prevent colds.  However, they have found that if you take 250 mg of vitamin C a day, it will reduce the severity of any cold you happen to catch by 10 to 20 percent.  You can get this amount of vitamin C by drinking two 8-ounce glasses of orange juice.

Call your doctor if you get a high fever, chronic cough or sinus infection, or if your cold or flu doesn’t clear up within a week.