The end of the year can be a busy time for many of us. On top of that, the seasons are changing (winter officially begins on December 21), which can affect your physical and mental health. But you can’t forget to take care of yourself!
With shorter days and colder weather on the horizon, it’s important to maintain healthy habits. And that means doing more than just bundling up. Here are six ways to stay healthy during cold weather:
- Get a flu shot. This is the most important thing you can do to protect against seasonal flu. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to help prevent the spread of flu. A flu shot is your best defense! No one wants to come down with the flu virus — it can cause symptoms such as coughing, congestion, fever, and fatigue, that can last up to two weeks. You can protect yourself and your family from getting sick by getting the flu vaccine. Recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu between 40 to 60 percent.
- Wash your hands often. Winter is peak season for contagious illnesses; in addition to COVID-19, we still need to take precautions to protect against cold and flu. The most effective way to remove and prevent the spread of illness-causing germs is to wash your hands frequently. When washing your hands, remember to get a good lather of soap on your hands and scrub for at least 20 seconds with warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help slow the spread of viruses.
- Eat for immunity. As part of your efforts to stay well and avoid the cold and flu this winter, it’s important to eat healthy foods that support your immune system, including mushrooms, garlic, citrus fruits, herbs and spices, probiotics, prebiotics, and chicken soup.
- Keep moving! The winter months can be a challenging time to stick to your exercise routine. Not only can preparing for the holidays leave you feeling drained, the cold weather can also be a deterrent to getting outside for some exercise. While it’s important to stay active during the winter, it’s also necessary to follow local guidelines on social distancing to stay safe. Consider working out at home with DVDs or exercise equipment, such as a treadmill or stair climber, and try to add extra movement into your routine throughout the day. And when the weather is nice, take the opportunity to get some fresh air with hike on one of the area’s many trails.
- Get some sun. While the availability of sunlight is limited during the winter months, it’s important to spend some time outdoors even when it’s cold. Sunlight has been shown to help improve your mood by boosting the release of a hormone called serotonin. Exposure to sunlight is especially important to help treat those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. Exposure to sunlight also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which controls your body clock and affects sleep habits.
- Maintain good skin health. Cold weather can wreak havoc on your skin, leaving you with dryness, flaking, cracking, and in some cases, eczema. To keep your skin moist and healthy through the winter, be sure to drink plenty of water, hydrate your skin with an ointment moisturizer, and use sunscreen whenever you’re out during the day. Exposure to the sun’s ray, even in the winter, can still have damaging effects on your skin, so be sure to choose a sunscreen that has an SPF factor of 30 or above to ensure adequate protection.
Protect Yourself with a Flu Shot
Independence members can get their flu vaccine at no cost when they present their member ID card at their doctor’s office, a retail health clinic, or an in-network pharmacy. If you pay out of pocket, you can get reimbursed for the cost up to $50. Visit our Immunizations page to see what your health plan covers.