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IU Health Spotlight: Stay Healthy and Avoid Cold-Weather Germs

Stay Healthy and Avoid Cold-Weather Germs

Writer / Jane Forni, MSN, RN, CIC, Infection Preventionist at IU Health West Hospital
Photography Provided

As the weather gets colder, extra care should be taken to prioritize your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 5% and 20% of the United States population gets the flu every year, and the average adult experiences the common cold two to three times per year. While we can’t always avoid winter sicknesses like the common cold, flu and strep throat, we can take precautions to lower our risk.

Maintain proper personal hygiene.

Wash hands with soap and water throughout the day, especially before eating or preparing food. The CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds, or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available. In addition to keeping your hands clean, be mindful to keep the surfaces clean that you come into contact with. Keep disinfecting wipes handy to wipe down high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, keyboards and countertops.

Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet.

Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all amount, around six cups of water daily is recommended. Your diet should include lots of fruits and vegetables, which are packed with vitamins and minerals needed to stay healthy. You can talk with your doctor to learn more about your individualized water intake and dietary needs.

Keep a consistent sleep schedule.

Sleep is an important time for your body to recover after a long day. Set a bedtime and aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night to get quality rest. If needed, a 20-minute power nap can be taken to recharge during the day. Other tips? Sleep in a dark, quiet room, and put away electronic devices 30 minutes before bedtime.

Get an annual flu shot.

The best defense against influenza is getting your yearly flu shot. Everyone ages 6 months and older should get their shot every season, especially those who are at higher risk of serious complications from the flu, like pregnant women, children under 5, people with chronic health conditions, and adults 65 and older. If you do get sick, the flu shot may make your symptoms milder and reduce the risk of a flu-associated hospital stay. In addition to the flu shot, talk with your doctor to make sure you’re up to date on all vaccinations and boosters recommended for you.

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