Coughing, sneezing, feasting, treating, tripping, falling—it’s that time of year. Trying to make it through the winter months without putting your health at risk can seem near impossible. But there are some steps you can take to protect yourself, and they might be easier than you think.
The weather might be frightful, but your health doesn’t have to be. Diane Schwartz, MD, Alexandra Gottdiener, MD, Samuel Suede, MD, and Jeffrey Cohen, DPM shared some of their best advice for staying well over the next few months.
Everyone around me is getting sick. What can I do to avoid the winter bug?
Dr. Schwartz: First and foremost, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep compromises the immune system, and that’s the biggest reason we get sick. Clean surfaces in your home or office that many people touch—refrigerators doors, microwave and faucet handles, and water fountain and vending machine buttons. Never touch your eyes, nose, mouth, or face after touching handrails, doorknobs, or shopping carts in public places. The nose and mouth are the main portals of entry into our bodies for bacteria and viruses.
I think I’m having flu symptoms, but I’m not sure if it’s just a cold. How can I tell?
Dr. Gottdiener: The flu comes on suddenly, typically with a fever, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, runny nose, and headaches. A cold comes on gradually and symptoms are not as severe. If you think you have the flu, call your doctor as soon as possible. Medication can help you recover more quickly but is only effective if started within 48 hours of symptom onset.
I’m trying to be more conscious of heart health this year. Where should I start?
Dr. Suede: There are some pretty simple lifestyle changes you can make to be more heart healthy. Limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day. Prepare food with little or no salt—cut back a little at a time. If you smoke, even casually, make this the time to QUIT. And keep the sweets in your love life, not in your food: Read labels and minimize the amount of sugar you consume in beverages and prepared foods.
I’ve been prone to falls in the winter before. Is there anything I can do to protect myself?
Dr. Cohen: Invest in a good pair of all-weather boots to prepare for rain, snow, and ice. Look for a waterproof exterior and a comfortable, breathable interior. Boots are better than high-quality sneakers because they usually have a high upper portion to properly stabilize your ankle and tendons on unstable terrain. If you’re wearing dress shoes, carry them in a bag and change later, or consider wearing shoe covers with rubber gripping on the soles that you can slip over what you’re already wearing.
Posted December 2018
Do you have a question for a doctor?
From your head to your toes, and everywhere in between, the Englewood Health Physician Network has you covered. Ask a question about your health. Selected questions will be answered in this column.