Winters in Colorado are very cold. It isn’t uncommon for temperatures to stay below zero all day. That means everyone is bundled up, homes and businesses are clamped shut and, heaters or fireplaces are blasting. It also means very little fresh air and the perfect conditions for germs to do their worst. It’s nearly impossible to avoid being sick at some point in the season. However, believe it or not, there are some ways we can avoid getting every sickness that rages through town and ways to keep from spreading it once we do get sick. I know it seems like common knowledge but it really isn’t. Here are 6 simple ways you can stop the spread of seasonal sickness.
1. WASH YOUR HANDS!
Ignaz Semmelweis made the case for disinfecting via washing your hands way back in 1847, so the case for washing is pretty substantiated. I know when you’re in a hurry and there is just so much to do it’s hard to find time to perform this task that literally takes two minutes, but…do it. It’s not that hard really. My three year old can independently wash her hands and she can barely reach the sink on a stool. Speaking of which, teach your kids to wash their hands. I know it’s a long laborious process but they will get it and eventually stop being the little petri dishes they are right now. As a side note: washing with water alone is not effective. Washing doesn’t kill the bacteria. When you use soap, it creates a slippery surface on your hands and washes the bacteria away, therefore, soap is essential. So is washing for 1-2 minutes to give those germs times to slip into the sink.
Look, bottom line is, washing really cannot be stressed enough. If you, or your kid, have been digging in the dirt, hanging out in public places, have used the bathroom, or are about to eat…WASH YOUR HANDS!!! I cannot for the life of me fathom why an adult would not wash their hands after using the bathroom; especially, a public bathroom. Washing hands keeps illness breeding bacteria and viruses from entering your body, it also keeps you from spreading your illness to other people. That’s just common curtesy.
2. STAY THE BLEEP HOME!
Few things rile me up as much as people who are sick and can’t seem to stay home. Equally obnoxious are the people who take their sick kids places. Seriously, it isn’t cute that your sick child is cuddling on your lap because they were vomiting earlier this morning and feel like crap. Also, telling people to keep a ten foot distance doesn’t make up for the fact that you dragged your kid out into public in the first place. Neither do I appreciate or empathize with the Mom who brought her fever ridden, rash-y kid to a party because it wouldn’t be fair to the healthy sibling if you all stayed home. Use some creative reasoning to find a solution or perhaps introduce your kid to the very real life emotion called disappointment. Eventually they’re going to experience it anyway. It might as well be within the safety of your home and loving arms. Exposing my kid to your kid’s hand, foot, and mouth disease in the name of avoiding disappointment is no laughing matter. Well…. I’m not laughing. Neither is any other parent. The take home is this: if you, or your kid, have thrown up, had diarrhea, a mystery rash, a new onset of symptoms, were oozing green slime from their nose, or have had a fever at any point in the last 24 hours, do not go anywhere. If you desperately need that ginger ale then please…send a friend!
3. COVER YOUR COUGH
I recognize that a cough can hang on forever and you really can’t stay home and stop life for 6 weeks at a time, and neither can I. You can, however, cover your mouth with your elbow or a hanky. Covering your mouth helps keep the germs you expel while coughing from freely bursting into the air and landing on whoever happens to be within reach of your infectious cloud. A simple and easy act of consideration can keep the cough from spreading. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen grown and capable adults in public coughing their heads off with zero regard for anyone in their vicinity. Honestly, I kinda want to shout, “What’s wrong with you?” And coughing into your hands just guarantees that the next person you shake hands with will get what you have.
After the unavoidable cold or flu bug has ravaged your home, do yourself and all your future guests a favor and disinfect your home. Yes, it takes some effort but the effort is worth it. Some germs can live for weeks at a time in which case they are able to re-infect your family over and over again, as well as any visitors who enter your home. The infamous norovirus has been shown to remain active even in adverse conditions.
Go ahead and use a real disinfectant at these times too. I’m a big fan of all-natural cleaning products and minimizing chemicals in the home, but sometimes Lysol is necessary. It’s ok. It probably won’t be the undoing of your family, however, it may keep that nasty bug from resurfacing in your home in two weeks.
Disinfecting means washing and sanitizing all of the exposed surfaces. This means walls where little hands slide, the entire bathroom, bed sheets, floors, and…pretty much the entire house. One thing a little sickness can do, is give you that needed motivation to go ahead and take care of the seasonal deep cleaning you’ve been putting off for months.
5. SUPPORT YOUR SYSTEM
Taking your vitamins and eating healthy while avoiding processed sugars lets your body focus on staying well. Vitamin D is essential in cold winter months when many of us are inside more and covered from head to toe when we do go outside. Bundling up to your eyeballs keeps you warm but also keeps those good feeling, immunity boosting vitamin D rays from reaching you, and Vitamin D is necessary for both physical and mental health. So, even if a multi-vitamin is too much to swallow, you might benefit from a vitamin D supplement. Obviously, ask your doctor before you run off and follow my advice, but in general most people would benefit from some extra ‘D’.
I know, I know…this is the hardest one for me so I get it. I’m much less motivated when it’s cold, the days are short, and I just got done with a month of celebrator holiday eating, but it is a very important part of staying well. Here again, exercise is beneficial to body and mind and will help with overall wellness in most cases. The U.S. National Library of Medicine website states that “Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.” ( https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm). So whether you prefer the warm indoors on the tread mill or adventurous snowshoeing in the cold Rocky Mountains, getting your body moving is a great way to boost your health and help fight seasonal ailments.
The bottom line is this: some of us have kids or family members who are at a vulnerable age or who are already fighting other health conditions. Seasonal illness may be a small inconvenience for you, but for others it makes an already difficult life circumstance even harder. With a few small changes and some effort you can reduce your number of sick days this winter while also reducing the spread of germs to those you love. If we all do our part then we can share in the fun of winter activities, festivals, and outings without sharing the misery of sickness.