It can be hard to stay healthy throughout winter. Low temperatures, ice and germs all conspire to slow us down this time of year. Here are a few quick steps you can take to help you stay free of injury and illness this season.
Beat Back Viruses
Respiratory viruses that cause colds and the flu are lurking around every corner.
Your best shot at avoiding the flu is to get the flu vaccine. You can schedule an appointment to receive your flu shot with your primary care provider. If you don’t yet have a primary care provider, Carson Valley Medical Center has 17 providers located at five satellite clinics around the community. You can call 775-782-1545 to be connected with the perfect fit in a primary care provider.
Other ways to lower your likelihood of illness include:
• Washing your hands often and well, with soap and water.
• Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth between hand washings.
• Stay away from people who are sick.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
• If you do get the flu, ask your doctor about antiviral medication. It may lessen how long you’re down with the flu.
Hold Off Hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops too low. Older people, babies, people who stay outside too long and those under the influence of alcohol are all at increased risk.
Warning signs of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.
To avoid hypothermia, wear clothing appropriate for the weather. Cover your head with a hat. Wrap a scarf around your face and mouth. Protect your hands with a pair of mittens. And dress in several layers of loose-fitting clothing.
Save Your Skin
It’s not just outdoor air that’s dry in winter—it’s indoors, too, with the furnace turned high and the fireplace roaring.
Try these tips to prevent dry air from drying your skin:
• Keep showers short and baths brief—no more than 5 to 10 minutes. And use warm, not hot, water.
• Gently blot your skin dry with a towel.
• Trap much-needed moisture by applying an ointment or cream immediately after washing.
Use a humidifier to add moisture to indoor air.
Seek Solid Footing
Icy sidewalks and driveways are fall hazards to people of any age, but they pose a particular peril for older adults. Each year about one-third of all people 65 and older take a tumble. Some of those tumbles end in broken bones.
One solution for slick surfaces is to carry your own de-icer: a zip-top bag filled with lightweight kitty litter that you toss on surfaces ahead of you. Or, if things look too slippery, try walking on grass instead of concrete.
You can also winterize your shoes and boots by attaching spikeless traction devices to the bottom. Look for these at sporting goods stores.
And if you need to climb steps to get in and out of buildings, always use handrails on your way up and down.
Shovel Snow Safely
The safest way to shovel snow may be to hire someone else to do the job. But if you must clear the white stuff yourself:
• Shovel early and often to avoid heavy, packed snow.
• Whenever possible, push snow instead of lifting it.
• If you do lift snow, do it right: Squat, with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. And limit your lifts to small amounts of snow.
• Don’t throw snow over your shoulder or to the side. The twisting motion can strain your back.
Sources: American Academy of Dermatology; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Osteoporosis Foundation