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A Guide to Fighting the Flu this Winter

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  • Written By: St. John's Medical Center
A Guide to Fighting the Flu this Winter

Staying Healthy this Winter

Snowy weather is in full swing, and so is cold and flu season. For those of us in Jackson, Wyoming, it can also bring along a plethora of outdoor snowy sports and activities. Stay on the slopes and off the couch this season with these tips:

Get Vaccinated

One of the best ways to prevent the flu virus is through the flu vaccine. Itt is recommended that everyone six months or older should get vaccinated against the flu every season, including pregnant women.

There is an abundance of misinformation on the internet surrounding the flu vaccine, but it is important that you understand the facts to help keep you and your loved ones healthy. Some of the most popular myths include:

  • You cannot get the flu from the vaccine itself
  • Healthy people should still get the flu shot
  • You cannot get the flu from cold weather, a draft, or going outdoors with wet hair.
  • The flu shot is recommended every year.

While most people are eligible to get the flu vaccine, it is also important to note that, there are a few exceptions when certain flu vaccines are not recommended.

Wash Your Hands—Properly and Frequently

Proper Technique

Washing your hands helps prevent you from getting sick and also helps to prevent the spread of illness-causing germs and bacteria. By being consistent about washing your hands with clean water and soap, you can be sure you're stopping the spread of germs.

Follow these steps, to keep your hands germ-free :

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water.
  • Lather your hands with soap, making sure you get soap on the back of your hands and underneath your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands with clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel.

When to wash Your Hands

Now that you know the proper way to keep your hands free of sickness-causing germs, it’s just as important toknow when you should be washing your hands. Here’s when you should grab the soap and get scrubbing:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating a snack or meal
  • After sneezing or coughing
  • After using the restroom or changing a diaper
  • After caring for someone who is sick
  • After touching the garbage
  • After touching or feeding a pet
  • After touching handrails or doorknobs in public places

You Can Actually Be Too Clean

While keeping your palms squeaky clean is important for warding off germs, if you wash your hands too frequently or use hand sanitizers excessively, you can hinder your body’s ability to fight off infection and disease.

Stick to using warm soap and water to wash your hands when necessary and only use hand sanitizer when this option is not available.

Eat a Balanced Diet

The foods we put into our bodies can influence our health in many ways. However, when you’re eating a lot of junk foods that are high in fats, sodium, and sugars, you actually negatively affect your body’s ability to fight off infection.

You can add these foods to your shopping list to give your immune system a little boost:

  • Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits
  • Leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli

Get Moving

With winter sports and activities at the forefront of the mind for some cold weather fun, they can also help you to fight off the flu. Getting regular moderate-intensity exercise also helps your body to fight off disease and infection. It does this by:

  • Flushing bacteria out of the respiratory system
  • Causes white blood cells to circulate faster
  • Prevents bacteria growth
  • Slows the release of stress hormones

Some winter-appropriate moderate-intensity exercises include:

  • Snowshoeing
  • Snowboarding
  • Skiing
  • Ice skating
  • Hiking
  • Snow biking

While getting regular exercise can benefit your overall health in many ways, be careful not to over-exert yourself. Long periods of intense exercise over time can make the body more susceptible to infection.

Reduce Your Stress Levels

Prolonged exposure to stress-hormones for any extended amount of time, whether that’s days or months, can weaken your immune system. Long-term exposure to stress can also exasperate pre-existing health conditions and decrease your body’s ability to fight off infection.

To effectively reduce stress, introduce healthy coping mechanisms into your daily routine. Here are some simple techniques you can try out to help you de-stress:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Spending time with loved ones

Flu Symptoms To Lookout For

While the flu is a very common viral respiratory infection, it is often difficult to differentiate from other viral infections. In contrast to other respiratory infections, the flu generally comes on suddenly.

Symptoms of the flu generally include

  • Fever
  • Feeling feverish or having chills
  • Irritated or sore throat
  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

When to Seek Medical Attention

While most people who come down with the flu recover in seven to ten days, anyone who gets the flu is susceptible to having serious flu-related complications.

If you notice any of the following signs or persisting symptoms, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Fever above 103°
  • Fever that improves then returns or worsens
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Seizures
  • Worsening of a chronic medical condition

See a Provider with On-Demand Care

There's no good time to get the flu. It can happen in the middle of the work day or late at night. If you're not able to visit an urgent care facility, St. John's Health also offers access to doctors around-the-clock via virtual appointments on our On-Demand smartphone app.

Primary Care in Jackson, Wilson, and Teton County

From family medicine to internal medicine, our Primary Care Providers (PCP) are here to openly listen to your concerns and work with you to achieve overall better health and wellness. Visit our website to see the types of primary care we provide or to find a doctor today!