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Fall is the season for hot chocolate and stylish scarves, and unfortunately for colds and influenza (flu) as well. Cold symptoms such as congestion, cough, runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat are not only inconvenient and exhausting, but they can cause a loss of productivity. Influenza can be even more debilitating, with similar symptoms to a cold, along with aching muscles and sudden fevers.
You can help yourself avoid getting sick during seasonal changes in weather with a few of these health tips.
1. Keep Exercising
In the summer, when the sun is shining and you’re motivated to look good in that bathing suit you've had tucked away since last year, it’s easy to get outside for a jog or a swim. The problems are when the weather begins cooling down because unless you belong to a conveniently located gym, the temptation to slack off with a bowl of popcorn and your favorite tv show sounds way better than trekking through the cold to get in a few reps.
Getting 20-30 minutes of daily exercise is important for your overall health, wellness, and stress reduction. Stress reduction techniques are especially important during the fall months, when chronic stress begins to affect the immune system, making it weaker against invading cold and flu viruses. Even the flu vaccination is less effective in people under chronic stress than in those without an overly-taxed immune system.
2. Get Some Sleep
Like exercise, an adequate amount of quality sleep helps your immune system stay strong and alert. Sleeping for approximately seven hours per night is crucial for your health. Among some of the many benefits of sleep are reduced stress levels and reduced risk of depression, which you are more susceptible to during the fall and winter seasons.
3. Get Vaccinated
The influenza vaccine, or flu shot, is recommended for everyone older than 6 months. Vaccines are different from year to year depending on which strains of influenza are predicted to be most prevalent, so make sure to stay up to date on your shots.
If you don’t like needles or can’t use them, ask for the vaccine in the form of a nasal spray. The nasal spray is most effective for people between 2-year-old to 49 years old.
4. Don't Touch Your Face
The viruses that cause colds and the flu can live on solid surfaces for up to 24 hours. These viruses enter your body through your eyes, mouth, or nose, so touching your face can increase your risk of getting sick.
You’ll help yourself stay healthy by disciplining yourself to keep your fingers and palms away from your face during the fall cold and flu season. This is difficult for most people since we routinely touch our faces more than 100 times per day, but necessary if you want to avoid getting sick.
5. Hang With The Healthy
It may not always be polite, but if you want to maintain your health, stay at least 20 feet from people who are already suffering from a cold or flu. This is because cold and flu viruses can travel up to 20 feet when propelled by a cough or a sneeze. It may be a good idea to limit your social interactions to your friends and family who are healthy.
6. Stay Hydrated
One of the best things you can do for your overall health is to drink plenty of water. The standard recommendation is 8 glasses of water per day. Water is necessary for flushing out our kidneys, which allow them to do their job and get rid of the harmful toxins from our body.
People who have a cold especially need to stay hydrated. Water helps the body create thin, runny mucus, which is easier for the body to eliminate from its system than the thicker, dry mucous of someone who is dehydrated. Getting enough water may even make it slightly easier for you to breathe when you have a cold.
7. Wash Your Hands
Frequent, thorough hand washing with hot, soapy water is still the single most effective way to prevent getting a cold or the flu. To effectively rid your hands of cold and flu viruses, be sure to scrub for no less than 20 seconds. When using public restrooms, dry your hands with disposable paper towels. Inside your home, wash your hand towels frequently to avoid trapping germs in them. Viruses can live for a few hours on soft surfaces.