Unfortunately, flu season is upon us and illnesses spread quickly this time of the year. With some help from Joliet Junior College’s nursing faculty members, we’ve compiled a list of ways to help you, and the people around you, stay healthy this winter.
1. Wash Your Hands
Dr. Mary Beth Luna, chair of the nursing department, says that one of the simplest ways to prevent illness is to correctly wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
“Hands should be washed with mild soap for a minimum of 15 seconds (sing the ABC song in your head!) with friction and then rinsed and dried (wet hands spread germs more easily). If you do not have access to a sink, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating,” said Dr. Luna.
2. Stay Hydrated
“A recent study found that staying hydrated may boost a particular immune response to enable your body to better fight the viruses. Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of fluids, especially water, and by avoiding caffeinated drinks,” said professor Gina Hulbert.
3. Get the Flu Shot
Dr. Sharon Valentino recommends getting the flu shot. Getting a shot is never pleasant, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that people 6 months of age and older, except those with rare cases, should receive the vaccine every season.
4. Don’t Sneeze Into the Open Air
“Do not sneeze into your hands (although it is better than an open-air sneeze). It is best to sneeze into your sleeve and have hand sanitizer in a convenient place (purse, briefcase, glove box, at your desk),” said Dr. Danielle Lisiecki.
“Oh; one more thing, do not go to work sick!”
5. Exercise Regularly
Dr. Kathleen Wolz recommends exercising regularly and listening to your body.
“If you’re feeling ill, rest, hydrate and stay away from others if possible. Self-care will go a long way in preventing illness and returning to health,” said Dr. Wolz.
6. Minimize Stress
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes — the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more at risk you are for viruses, including the common cold and cold sores.”
Professor Sue Batis says to use stress releasing techniques like five-minute stretching, visualization and deep breathing exercises every day.
“Remember, gratitude is the right attitude. Smile and laugh often,” said Batis.
You can find more ways to relieve stress on the Mayo Clinic’s website.
7. Take Care of Your Mind
“To add to the self-care ideas, regular practices that slow down the mind and body are restorative and improve immune function, such as mindfulness, guided or silent meditation/prayer,” said professor Sue Rio.
Rio added that making heartfelt connections with others can improve immune function. Just be sure to avoid contact with those that are ill.
“Remember to connect with and hug those you love because it releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone) which helps to maintain immunocompetence!”
8. Stick with Healthy Habits
Dr. Karen Roberson recommends incorporating healthy habits into your routine. Habits like getting adequate sleep and eating nutrient rich foods can increase our natural defense mechanisms and immune system.
“When developing healthy habits ditch perfection and look for progression. Make a goal for one small healthy habit and develop additional changes with time. Celebrate your success and use this as motivation to continue to make changes in the right direction,” said Dr. Roberson.
9. Avoid Eating Out
“Stop eating out for lunch or minimize your time eating out during flu season,” said Dr. Cheryl Luster-Klemp.
She suggests meal prepping to help avoid eating out. Cooking at home allows you to control your sugar and salt intake while controlling your weight.
10. Sanitize Your Devices
“In the spirit of our high-tech world, make sure you sanitize your cell phone, computer keyboard/mouse in your office and in the classroom. At home you should wipe down all of your remotes with a sanitizer," said professor Mary Magruder.
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