Winter is here and if you’re following the news, you know that cold and flu season has swept into North Texas. In fact, some health and news organizations are predicting a more severe bout of illness than in recent years. We wanted to pass along some valuable information for keeping you, your family and loved ones healthy this season, so we sat down with Richard Ward, M.D., an internal medicine physician on the medical staff Texas Health HEB and at Texas Health Adult Care in Bedford, to get some tips for staying well.
Tip #1 – Get a flu shot
Ward advises we should get a flu shot every year, and stresses that it’s not too late!
“Getting a flu vaccine each year is the best way to help protect against the flu,” he explains. “And it’s the best measure to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalizations, and even death. This season’s flu shot incorporates four different strains of flu virus that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe are most likely to cause problems in the United States that season. While their predictions are not always 100 percent accurate, getting immunized has proven effective in reducing the number of flu cases we see each year.”
Tip #2 – Wash your hands
It’s an easy way to control the spread of cold and flu viruses but many people simply don’t wash their hands — or don’t wash them enough. Ward recommends consistently hand washing throughout the day, particularly after being in contact with someone who may be ill or touching a surface like a doorknob, especially in a public place.
The quality of handwashing counts as well! The CDC recommends following these steps:
- Wet hands with clean, running water, and apply soap
- Lather hands with soap by rubbing them together, including the back of the hand, between fingers and under nails
- Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse hands well under clear, running water
- Dry hands using a clean towel or air dryer
Tip #3 – Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
Rather than recommending foods or drinks that are touted as immune-boosters, Ward says eating a healthy, well-balanced diet helps give your immune system the nutrients it needs to keep you healthy and combat viruses.
Your diet should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats found in nuts and olive oil, whole grains, eggs, beans and legumes, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins. And the best drink option? Plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep the body’s systems functioning properly.
Tip #4 – Stay active
“Exercising at least 150 minutes a week is an important lifestyle choice to maintain your overall health as well as combat infection that comes with the cold or flu,” Ward says. “Exercise can be as simple as a walk through the neighborhood, but I recommend changing up a routine to avoid boredom, and incorporating a variety of exercises and resistance training at home or in the gym.”
Tip #5 – Get plenty of rest
Lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to infections, so getting plenty of rest each night is key to staying healthy and staving off illness. Generally speaking, seven to nine hours of sleep each night is ideal for adults.
Tip #6 – Cut down on alcohol consumption
Ward says excessive amounts of alcohol impact our immune system health.
“Over-indulging in alcoholic beverages has a negative effect on our immune system health and compromises our body’s ability to fight off viruses that lead to illness like cold or flu,” he adds.
Ward says following these tips won’t always prevent cold or flu, but they’ll decrease our chances of contracting the viruses. And if we do get sick, our illness will likely be less severe.
In need of a primary care physician? Head to TexasHealth.org/Doctors to find the closest physician near you this cold and flu season, and every season.