Why do so many viruses hit hardest in the winter months?
Several explanations can apply, including the theory that winter leads people to spend more time indoors inside the “breathing zone.” Within this radius of three to six feet, respiratory viruses can spread easily from person to person.
Cold temperatures also put stress on the cardiovascular system, affecting blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels, inflammation and even heart attacks. With more colds and flu around, and more people spending time together indoors, it’s more likely that you’ll get sick too. It’s not inevitable though. Thankfully there are a number of things you can do to help ward off those annoying infections:
Get enough sleep:
That means at least 7 hours a night. Whether you stay up all night one night, or just consistently don’t get enough sleep, even just a few days in a row, sleep deprivation puts a serious damper on your immune system’s ability to fight off infection.
Don’t skip breakfast and be sure to have three solid meals every day. Each meal should contain a carbohydrate, a protein source, and a fruit or vegetable, and it’s best to eat your biggest meals earlier in the day. Don’t go too long without eating, to the point where you feel weak or shaky, as your body will perceive it as stress. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, as sugar has been shown to literally slow your immune cells down.
Exercise, even just going for a walk, circulates the blood around your body and boosts your immune function. Just don’t go all out if your body hasn’t exercised in a while, as your body can also perceive that as a stress, which weakens your immune system. Running hard over long distances is also stressful for your body. Don’t push yourself too hard if you’re feeling tired and run down.
Wash your hands
Do this especially before eating. Be careful throughout the day to avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with your hands, as this is how bugs (viruses and bacteria) get into your body. Never eat anything without washing your hands first, and always wash your hands first thing when you get home after being out and about.
When you are tense and harried, your body pumps out stress hormones which weaken your immune system’s ability to respond to invaders. Slow down and take measures to back off if you feel your stress levels careening out of control. If your life is really busy, be sure to allow for regular down time to rest. Take at least one day on the weekend to rest and recover from the previous week and get ready for the next.
Laughter and positive social interaction are both great for your immune system. Spend time with people you love and people that make you laugh. Play and have fun, remember to take time to enjoy the life and people you’ve been blessed with.
Research has shown that warmer body temperatures can prevent the spread of the common cold virus. Carry a scarf or shawl in your bag during this time of year in case the temperature drops unexpectedly.
If you do get sick, see your doctor if that cold isn’t going away, otherwise you will just infect the people that spend most of their time with you, like your colleagues. Rest and healthy fluids and foods are usually better than any medicine but if it’s been more than a week and you’re just not getting better, or you feel unusually unwell, go see your doctor.