Top 10 Tips to Avoiding Illness This Winter

The winter of 2012-2013 has been one characterized by an uncommonly high amount of illness in the United States. The flu, while not the only illness to which people have succumbed, is probably the best metric for measuring general illness as it is closely monitored every year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So far this winter, 41 states have reported widespread outbreaks of the flu virus with nearly 20,000 reported cases nationwide. These cases are no doubt the tip of the iceberg as many cases go unreported every year. In November, 36.5% of Americans had been vaccinated, a number slightly increased from the November 2011 figure of 36.3%.* With all of the added press that the flu has had this year, this number will probably climb significantly over the next few months.

The Center for Orthopedic Care at Summit Medical Group has not escaped unscathed from these winter illnesses. Between the colds, the flu, stomach bugs and the like, we have experienced many employee sick days and client reschedules. The following is a list of ways to avoid having illness affect your life this winter, even in this sickly season.

  1. Wash your hands. In a world with public places teeming with contagious viruses and bacteria, our hands can be our greatest source of infection. We are always touching things with our hands and absentmindedly rubbing our eyes or putting food in our mouths which could be the introduction of an infection into our systems.
  2. Avoid sick people. It is important to remember that people with illnesses are often highly contagious. Try to avoid dealing with sick people altogether, but if it must be done, at least remember to wash your hands afterwards.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep allows your body to recharge and gives your immune system a chance to replenish after a long day of fighting off microscopic invaders. Failing to get enough sleep is setting your body up for easy access to infection.
  4. Cut back on the alcohol. Drinking alcohol monopolizes the resources that your body should use to prevent infections.
  5. Salt water has major benefits. Salt is a natural antibacterial agent. You can squirt salt water up your nose with a Neti Pot or use it to gargle. It cleans the bacteria-riddled mucus out of your nose and helps to fight respiratory infections.
  6. Drink lots of water. Your body will function better if not starved for its most important molecule. Your body is made up of about 60% water and is constantly using water for all vital processes. Replenish your body’s water supply to help yourself run at maximum capacity.
  7. Take vitamins and supplements. While many vitamins can be helpful supplements to your diet, Vitamin D is probably the most important, at least during the winter months. Vitamin D is absorbed into your body right from the sun’s rays, but in the winter months, more time is spent indoors than usual and supplements can help make up the difference.
  8. Eat your fruits and veggies. This helps vary your diet and allows you to get the vitamins with which fruits and veggies are rich. Giving your body the tools to stay healthy is half the battle, and eating fruits and veggies certainly does this.
  9. Try probiotics. These supplements contain live bacteria meant to balance the microflora (bacteria) in your digestive tract. By maintaining this balance, we leave ourselves less susceptible to infection.
  10. Listen to your body. Your body will give you a warning when it’s beginning to succumb to an infection. Whether that warning is a headache, a bad mood or feeling uncharacteristically tired, respond to these warnings by making sure you are keeping up with all the other tips.
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