In the Midwest, cold and flu season is 16 months long. No, wait, that can’t be right.
In all seriousness, it is about 7 months long, lasting from October through April. If it can snow, you still might get sick. Needless to say, I’ve been searching for and testing ways to stay healthy for my entire life. That only increased when I became a mother. Because I do not have time, nor the ability, to be sick every month for more than half the year.
With the new COVID-19 coronavirus illness spreading this year, I know finding ways stay healthy is at the top of everyone’s mind even more than usual right now. While we can’t be completely fool proof, there are certainly ways to up our health game.
If you want to stay healthy, you have to stay on top of it!
Have you noticed how other people wash their hands? Or sneeze? People are gross. 3 second hand washes and last month a woman sneezed clear across the aisle at Target as I was about to walk by her. Yes, she did get a “dude, you’re gross,” look. Problem is, I don’t think she cared.
There are so many people out in the world that just don’t do what they need to. Either they aren’t aware they’re not behaving in the healthiest manner for all of us, or they don’t care. It’s amazing how often adults say they didn’t know they were supposed to cough into their elbow. And then when you tell them, they don’t know why.
I thought this was stuff everyone knew, but apparently not. So, here are some common (but maybe not known) and less common ways to stay healthy this cold and flu season.
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10 Ways to stay healthy during cold & flu season
Wash your hands as soon as you get home, every time!
When Zach was in daycare last summer, they had a policy; kids washed their hands the minute they came into the classroom. The idea was “keep your germs from home, at home.” My mind exploded.
How amazing of an idea is that?! And so simple and easy to do. It makes perfect sense. So we implemented it at home. When you get home, wash your hands. Keep the germs from the store, school, park, etc….out of your house.
Teach kids to sing Twinkle, Twinkle when they wash their hands.
As it is with most kids, my son was a quick hand “rinser” after going potty. He’s in a rush to get back to whatever he was doing before nature called. But as soon as I implemented the “Sing Twinkle, Twinkle while you wash,” it became fun for him. He sings it a little fast sometimes, but even when he’s not getting the recommended 20 second wash, the 15 second one is WAY better than the 3 second.
When they’re learning, sing it with them (I also washed my hands) so they don’t go to quickly. Set the pace for them and they seem to stick with it. I also show him to go around the front and back, in between fingers, and scrub the nails. It’s also a great reminder for us on how long we really should be washing our hands each and every time.
Use disinfecting wipes or cleanser on high-touch areas regularly.
How often do you clean your light switches? How about doorknobs? Remote controls? These items are germ collectors and they rarely ever are cleaned. At least once a week, more if someone in the house or extended family is sick, wipe them all down. I use Lysol disinfecting wipes because it’s quick and easy and kills most germs.
Alternatively, you can get a disinfecting spray. You’re going to only want to use this one with ventilation, but it’s even faster for disinfecting things like doorknobs and locks, faucet handles, hand rails, and anything else that can easily and quickly be sprayed down.
Soap and water and some scrubbing may not get all of the germs, but will get a lot of them so that works, too! As long as you’re cleaning those frequently touched items and places you’ll eliminate a lot of chance for sickness.
Use your elbows!
This is one of my favorite ways to stay healthy. I do it year round. I get a lot of crazy looks but I’m also not often sick, so whatever. Use your elbows instead of your hands for everything you can. If you can avoid using your finger and use your elbow, do it.
Flip on light switches, press elevator buttons, push down door handles. I do it all, including pressing the lever on the water cooler in my office with my elbow.
High touch areas in public places, offices and other work spaces are not cleaned thoroughly or often enough. I used to work for a cleaning company. Looking back now, never once were we instructed to wipe down any of these types of things. Think about that.
Open the windows or get outside.
There are a few reasons we get sick more during the winter, but one of them is because we spend more time indoors. In short, more people in less space sharing air spreads germs more easily from one person to another.
This is why even during the winter, you should open your windows or get some outside time in. This will let fresh air in, and germs that happen to be in the air from sneezes and coughs, out. Time outside is also shown to have advantages on the immune system!
Remind family members to cough & sneeze into their elbows.
Many people are unfamiliar with the idea of sneezing and coughing into their elbow. I’m not sure how new this concept is, but if I really think about it, I don’t remember being taught as a child to do it. I remember simply “cover your mouth!”
But in my early 20’s, I was a childcare teacher. During that time, we were teaching kids to use their elbows. It made perfect sense and I’ve done it ever since. But if someone has never had a situation where someone explained to them this new method, or why it was beneficial, they aren’t going to do it.
So teach people in your family to hold their elbows close to their mouths, not several inches away, and sneeze there. Our inner elbow comes into contact with almost nothing throughout the day. Our hands, on the other hand, touch everything (unless you’re like me and you follow step 4).
Every time someone sneezes into their hand and then touches something, even if they wipe it with a tissue first, their germs are transferred to that thing. Inevitably, they are then transferred to the next person to touch that thing. And maybe several more people after that. I’m not sure how many people can be infected from one instance, but lots of germs can live several hours, or even days, on a surface.
So gently teach, and then remind, everyone to couch and sneeze the healthiest way, into their elbow. It’s another one of the best ways to stay healthy!
Break nail biting and thumb sucking habits.
I used to bite my nails. I also used to get sick a few times a year. It’s been a long time since I’ve bitten my nails (unless I get one of those frayed pieces that gets snagged on everything) and I get sick way less. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Our hands touch everything and pick up all of the germs. Biting your nails just delivers them straight to your system. Congratulations. Now you’re sick.
Same thing with thumb sucking for kids. Kids touch EVERYTHING. It’s why they seem to get weird illnesses that adults don’t (like impetigo and hand, foot, and mouth).
So if you or someone in your family is a nail biter or thumb sucker, start finding ways to break that habit, quick!
Use separate towels in the bathroom.
If possible, use not only separate towels for bathing, which most people do, but also for drying hands after washing. I don’t know about you, but my kid wipes his face several times a day on the hand towel in our bathroom. Needless to say, I’ve started using my own on a separate rack.
If you don’t have extra space to hand multiple towels, try getting an over the door towel rack.
Load up on fruits and veggies.
Fruits and vegetables are great for you in tons of ways, including boosting your immune system. Most people just don’t get enough. So when cold and flu season is on the way, be sure to get your fill of various colors of fruits and vegetables. This will help to ensure proper nutrition and a variety of vitamins and minerals your body needs to fight off illness.
Keep in mind that research has shown that frozen and canned fruits and veggies are almost just as beneficial as fresh from the store. So if you live in a colder state where produce prices go way up this time of year, don’t be afraid to stock up on those!
Just be sure to look for the varieties with no sugar or salt added, if possible. The only one I’ve had difficulty finding is peas without sugar, but you can find it! We also always rinse our canned veggies to eliminate any extra salt and sugar we can.
Otherwise, if you grow your own produce, consider canning or freezing some of your own for winter! It’s a great way to get the benefits of straight from the garden produce without added junk.
Regularly wash and change bedding, towels, and other items-especially if someone is sick!
How often do you change your sheets? What about washing comforters and throw blankets? And pillows? What about towels?
Many people let these sit for far longer than they should either because they just forget or don’t realize how gross they can get. Our sheets regularly get swapped once a week. More frequently if someone is sick. Comforters get washed once a month, or way more frequently if someone is sick. Everything is also washed more during cold and flu season.
Hand towels, dish cloths, bedding, and other various items should be washed on a regular schedule to rid them of germs. Be sure that you’re not waiting too long to wash these items to keep germs from spreading around your home.
Follow these simple ways to stay healthy starting now!
Following these simple tips helps keep both me and my family healthier each winter. We still tend to get a cold or flu each year, but generally only once. And usually, one of us gets it and the rest of us catch it. We aren’t catching and bringing home colds all season long.
We have also gone entire seasons with none of us getting sick (or only one). So I feel pretty confident that these steps are definitely helping!
You also don’t have to do these just during cold and flu season! All of these are great ways to stay healthy year round. Germs, while easier to catch during cold, dry weather when we’re stuck indoors, don’t take the summers off!
So wash those hands, get some fresh air, and be diligent in all of these preventative ways to stay healthy. Here’s to a healthier year!