Is it just us or does it seem like everyone is sick right now? Upper respiratory infections – the gunky stuff that can hang on for weeks – make life a little less tolerable, and are more common in the winter months when we’re staying indoors and passing along viruses to each other.
So when everyone around you is falling ill, how can you avoid getting sick? Megan Kuikman, MD, a Family Medicine Physician with SSM Health Dean Medical Group, has some tips.
1. Wash those hands
Hand hygiene is crucial to staving off germs. Be diligent and frequently wash with soap and water, and/or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Don’t forget to wash around the nails and the backs of hands. Make sure you wash before cooking and eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and after using the restroom.
2. Avoid touching your face
Most upper respiratory infection viruses are spread through mucosal membranes (think eyes and nose in particular). Those viruses need a place to enter your body, so don’t touch them without washing your hands first. Also, wash them after you do!
A lack of sleep may compromise our immune systems, making us more susceptible to contracting viruses. Most people need an average of seven hours of sleep a night, so try to stick to a regular bedtime and disconnect from electronic devices in plenty of time to decompress before hitting the hay.
4. Eat your vitamins
Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables will ensure you’re getting a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Citrus fruits provide lots of vitamin C and veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A, helping our mucous membranes function properly.
5. Mind your manners
Use tissues to blow your nose and cough into a tissue or “into your elbow” to avoid infecting other people. Humans share enough germs on a daily basis without blowing them at others.
6. Keep it to yourself
Germs tend to hitch rides on all sorts of everyday items. Avoid sharing utensils or glasses with other people since this is a great way to share unwanted germs.
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