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Winter brings fluffy snow for sledding, building snowmen, and even a good friendly snowball fight. Winter also brings colder temperatures, the peak time of year for cold and flu season, and many months when practicing safe health habits is a must. Viruses spread like wildfires during this time of year with so many people staying indoors more and breathing the same air. Surfaces seem to soak in all the germs and no matter where you go they will be there.
Now more than ever, most people are trying to stay safe and healthy, especially through these winter months. With an additional virus this year that has some similar symptoms as a cold and/or flu, there are definitely some great health habits we should all be taking quite seriously. Here are 6 winter health habits that the whole family can practice ensuring a healthy and safe season. And, let’s be honest these are really great practices we should be following year-round.
6 Winter Health Habits To Fight Of Any Virus
Keeping our families healthy seems to be the top of most people’s minds this year. As we get into the winter months and the peak for cold and flu season, now more than ever we should be practicing daily health habits to ensure a well season. Here are 6 easy health habits to exercise during the chilliest months of the year.
1. Stay Up To Date On Vaccines. This also includes the annual flu shot (for kiddos 6 months and older). Getting the flu is no fun, but getting another virus or disease such as measles, whooping cough or pneumonia is worse. There has been a decline in immunization rates, especially with children, since the start of the pandemic. People are not keeping their well visit appointments and instead opting to not get vaccinated due to a number of concerns, especially the potential of being exposed to COVID-19 during one of these appointments.
By not keeping your family up to date on their immunizations, there is an increased risk of contracting a disease that could be totally preventable with the appropriate vaccine. Don’t let vaccines fall through the crack. Call your provider’s office and talk with them about their socially distanced protocols for your family. Now is not the year to not get the flu shot or maintain your regularly scheduled immunizations. Let’s avoid any more outbreaks by keeping these health habits an essential part of our lives.
2. Practice Good Hygiene. You may have heard a myth that cold weather causes colds. Well, that is not entirely true. There are certain viruses that are more active during the winter months that we are more likely to be exposed to. They spread through water droplets through the air and with colder temps and everyone wanting to be indoors more, the spread of these viruses is more prominent. The good news is that since we have all been living through a global health crisis these last several months, and have been encouraged by health officials on a number of healthy habits such as washing our hands frequently, we all should be experts by now.
In case there was any doubt, handwashing does in fact help to ward off illnesses. Teach your children handwashing is super important especially after using the bathroom, before and after mealtimes, and after they are done playing outside. Some other great health habits we should all be practicing for good hygiene is to not touch our face with unclean hands, and coughing/sneezing etiquette. Sneezing and coughing into your hands is a no-go! To help minimize getting those germs on your hand then touching other surfaces, try coughing and sneezing into your elbow. Not only does it help to keep those freshly washed hands clean but also helps to prevent spreading viruses.
3. Boost The Immune System. Healthy foods help to create a healthy body which is a health habit worth eating for. It is time to load up on plant recipes, vitamin C, whole grains, and healthy fats all winter long. Food is an amazing healer for our bodies and there is no supplement that can do a better job than the whole foods you can find at your local grocery store. Try making meatless meals throughout the week, squeezing fresh citrus juices, and getting your kiddos involved in helping to prep dinner a couple of nights a week.
We all crave carbs and sugar for comfort, especially when it is cold outside. Evidence shows that excessive amounts of sugar has been found to weaken the immune system for short periods of time. By following a nutrient-rich diet and being in good health can help to fight off infectious diseases all year round. Spending a little more on fresh groceries is just what the doctor ordered.
Read More: Tips For Fostering A Healthy Gut Microbiome
4. Keep Moving. Cold temperatures (depending on how cold) are no excuse to stay indoors lounging around watching TV all day. Get everyone bundled up and get outside! Find activities to keep you moving such as ice skating, sledding down the highest hill you can find, or even building snowmen or snow angels. Whatever activity gets you and your family outdoors each day is a great health habit that everyone can enjoy.
Now if you are indefinitely stuck indoors due to inclement weather, there are still fun ways to keep moving. Try a friendly game of hide-and-seek, set up your family room for yoga, or even crank up the music and just dance it out! Of course, there are going to be days when reading, puzzles and art activities are all you will do because bundling up is out of the question. So take those days to slow down and then be grateful for lots of red wine and its heart healthy properties. Not all health habits have to be so serious!
5. Maintain A Sleep Schedule. Getting enough sleep for everyone is critical, but especially for your growing children. According to SleepFoundation.org, getting enough sleep is an essential building block for your child’s mental and physical health. Following a consistent sleep schedule works wonders for the whole family allowing everyone to get enough rest to ward off mood swings, meltdowns and the ability to take on any task for the day. On average adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night and with children it is going to vary by age.
Some basic sleeping health habits to follow are to ensure a consistent sleep schedule for adults and children. It is important go to bed at the same time each night and wake up roughly at the same time each day. If your child(ren) is still napping, make sure their nap times and lengths are consistent as well. Bedroom temperature should be slightly cooler during sleep time and ensuring the room is dark with a sound machine to mask outside noises. Sleep is not only critical for development but often times a health habit that gets pushed to the side for many adults. Make it a priority and lead by example for your children!
6. Dress In Layers. This may be an obvious but one worth mentioning. We have all been there as parents when our child refuses to put on their jacket, gloves, or hat and it is 38 degrees outside. Children, especially toddlers, can be very stubborn when it comes to needing to make decisions and wanting their voices to be heard. Totally fine. Give them options and let them pick. “Nora, you need a jacket on to go outside, do you want your green jacket or yellow jacket?” You can even pick it out for her and ask if Nora would like to put it on, or would Nora like Mama to help. It’s all about the options.
So back to layering… it is recommended to wear layers of loose fitting clothing with the closest layer to your skin being a moisture wicking material, not cotton. Make sure your outermost layers (jackets, boots, gloves) are at least water resistant and do not forget to cover those little heads to keep in that body heat. Staying active and getting outside in the winter are important health habits to stick to and so is making sure your dress code is up to snuff for those fun chilly days ahead.
Don’t dread the winter months because of the colder temperatures and darker days. Instead, winterize your life by creating health habits to keep you and your family active, happy, and well this year. These winter months bring the fear of cold and flu season and the continuation of COVID-19 spreading. However, by adhering to the CDC guidelines and keeping your family active, eating well-balanced meals, and getting enough rest, you can be sure you’re doing what is best to protect them. Let these winter health habits kick off a reason to cheers the cold days ahead in hopes of keeping all viruses at bay.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on 5 Tips For Cold And Flu Season To Keep Kids Healthy.
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