Fending Off the Flu: 3 Tips for Staying Healthy This Winter

By Arriane Cipher

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and it can only mean one thing: winter is coming. As a bonus, the cool and rainy weather also rings in the much-dreaded flu season. According to the Chicago Tribune, influenza affects most people between the months of December and March. Is this due to our constant state of being in the damp and cold? Apparently not — it’s all virus related.

So what makes us susceptible to viruses? For one, spending more time indoors to keep warm means that viruses can easily spread from person to person. During winter, the moderately cold weather puts heavy stress on our respiratory and cardiovascular systems, rendering the body unable to defend itself properly against infection. On the bright side, there are several precautions you can take to save yourself from the flu. Here are three tips to help you get started:

1. Don’t forget your annual flu shot

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It’s never too early to protect yourself against the flu with your annual vaccination. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated near the end of October in order to be adequately protected for the upcoming season. No need to worry if you’re afraid of needles, there are other options. One type, Afluria Quadrivalent can be given to some people aged 18 to 64 years old via a jet injector and there’s also a nasal spray vaccine available.

2. Get some Vitamin D into your system or try light therapy

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Shorter days mean fewer sun rays and that can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some symptoms of winter SAD include social withdrawal, weight gain, and having low energy, as listed by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). To stave off the winter blues and combat the flu, it’s important to make sure that you’re mentally and physically at your best. Take Vitamin D or sit in front of a lightbox first thing in the morning, which can help boost your mood and get you up and moving.

3. Create an exercise plan for the winter

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If you don’t already have one, creating a weekly exercise plan will do wonders for your cardiovascular health. In 2014, findings from a poll conducted by The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed that those who exercised at a high intensity for at least two and a half hours a week were about 10 percent less likely to be affected by flu-like illnesses. Having trouble staying motivated? A great article by Yajen Tan gives you tips on how to stay committed to your fitness routine.

Keep these three things in mind and we hope that you’ll be protected from the flu, because as the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.” However, in the event that you do start feeling any symptoms, please visit a healthcare professional or nurse practitioner for medical advice. Researchers from Maryville University have found that nurse practitioners can give advice on appropriate medical choices and healthy lifestyle habits, resulting in lower costs, fewer emergency room visits, and shorter hospital stays. To locate your nearest health center in Monrovia, visit this link to the LA County Health Agency.

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