10 Healthy Living Tips For Winter Health

In winter, holiday spirits may be up, but general health tends to be on the decline. It’s not hard to see why—between the freezing weather, increased travel, and busy schedules, most of us aren’t making self-care a priority at this time of year.

But to get through the coldest months in good health, it takes a little extra effort. Keep yourself happy and healthy during the winter with these 10 tips:

 

  1. Boost your Vitamin D
    Vitamin D is known for its powers to bolster heart health, mental well-being, immunity, and even the condition of your skin. But as the sun gets scarce in winter, it gets harder to soak up this vital nutrient naturally.

You can take a supplement, but getting your vitamins naturally is best. One option is to eat more fatty fish such as wild salmon (farmed varieties pack less vitamin D punch). Or, look to improve your health by losing five percent of your body weight to get your body to boost your vitamin D for you. Exercising or lowering your cholesterol will also help you make up your winter D-ficiency.

 

  1. Get vaccinated
    There’s enough fear of needles that many are more afraid of getting the flu vaccine than they are of getting the flu. But consider this: In 2014 in alone, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated the vaccination averted about 7.2 million illnesses, 3.1 million doctor’s visits, and 90,000 hospitalizations.

If you’re afraid of needles, consider the nasal spray, which is just as effective with out the prick. And remember—getting the vaccine doesn’t just protect you, but it helps promote herd immunity, which protects everyone around you, too.

 

  1. Wash your hands frequently
    Winter is a season where people travel more, spend more time cooped up together, and immune systems are down. Washing your hands is the best way to protect yourself from getting sick or passing germs on to those around you.

Always use soap when washing your hands, and rub them together for at least 20 seconds. If you want an extra line of defense between washes, consider an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

 

  1. Exercise
    It may be harder to motivate yourself to exercise in winter, but it’s especially important this time of year. In addition to the obvious fitness benefits, exercise can boost your vitamin D, keep your mood up, and strengthen your immune system.

So get up and hit the pavement in the morning. Or, wait for the rest of the family to wake up and hit the ice skating rink together.

 

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast
    Starting your day with a healthy meal can help stave off winter cravings—as well as the temptations of holiday parties.

A bowl of balanced carbs like oatmeal or porridge is especially good for winter, as it loads you up on healthy starches and fiber that can boost your energy while helping you feel fuller longer. Avoid sugar, and flavor your bowl with fresh or dried fruit and nuts instead.

 

  1. Make time to de-stress
    Winter, particularly the holidays, can be an especially stressful time for many. But it’s also the time of year that stress can hurt you the most, lowering your immune system and weighing down your mood even more than the cold weather alone.

To combat stress, take fish oil supplements (proven to reduce anxiety by up to 20 percent), be sure to give yourself downtime, and consider adding meditation to your regular routine.

 

  1. Stay hydrated
    Getting your eight glasses of water in each day can help address many of winter’s big health issues, from stress to fighting off disease, and even helps to keep your skin looking great.

 

  1. Consume more dairy
    Go-to dairy staples like milk, yogurt and cheese offer a strong foundation for winter health. Get your daily servings in for craving-stifling protein, bone-strengthening calcium, and a germ-battling army of vitamins and minerals.

 

  1. Fighting the holiday blues
    A lot of people get down during the winter months. Often, it’s simply hard for reality to live up to the romanticized holiday vision society builds up for us. On top of that, the end of the year prompts people to take stock of where their lives are—and where they’re not.

To lift yourself out of a case of the blues, focus on what you’re grateful for, take good care of yourself, and consider volunteering for a cause. Even better, plan a vacation. The anticipation has been shown to improve moods as far ahead as two months.

But if you suspect you suffer from clinical depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), talk to a psychologist.

 

  1. Catch up on sleep
    Though we’re supposed to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, most of us get an average six and a half.

But in the darker, colder months of winter, our bodies naturally crave more sleep than usual. Go with it, and let your body catch up on missed REMs.

 

 

A Little Self-Care Goes a Long Way

Winter is a season with its own set of challenges … from the stress of the holiday bustle to the latest round of the flu. But a little self-care can go a long way to keep you healthy all season long. Make the effort to stay healthy and you can enjoy all the fun winter has to offer.

Most Common Summer Allergies

most common summer allergies
Image by Alex Graves

For most of us, summer brings bright sun, hot days, and great times at the beach and neighborhood BBQs. But for some, summer can be prime allergy season.

To help you battle unwelcome stuffed noses, itchy skin, hives, and more, here are some of the most common allergies that aggravate people during the summer season:

1. Pollen
One of the most infamous allergy culprits out there, many of pollen’s worst perpetrators flourish in the summer. While in the spring pollen mostly comes from trees and flowers, in the summer, it’s from weeds such as ragweed.

If you’re allergic to pollen, you’re likely to experience symptoms including congestion, itchy eyes, sneezing, and/or coughing at this time of year.

2. Stings & Bites
Bees, wasps and other bugs come out in this season. No one likes to get stung, but for some of us, a stinger can cause a much bigger problem than for others—for some, it’s life-threatening.

To reduce your risk, limit your time outside. Don’t linger outside with uncovered food, especially sugary ones like soda that will draw bees and other bugs in. Those with very serious or life-threatening allergies should carry a self-care kit (such as an Epi-Pen) at all times and wear a MedicAlert bracelet.

3. Mold
If your reactions kick in later in the summer or early into fall, the trigger might be mold. This summer-to-fall transition time is when some types of mold spore—in fact, it can be an even greater allergy issue than pollen.

Mold allergies trigger symptoms very similar to pollen—if you’ve got an itchy eyes, nose or throat; sneezing; or congestion, it could be a mold allergy.

4. Poison Ivy
Leaves of three, let it be—this helpful Boy Scouts mnemonic device can help you avoid poison ivy’s itchy and highly spreadable rash.

Reactions to poison ivy can be very tame or quite extreme, and can take from a few hours to a full week to show. But most people are at least a little allergic, and you won’t know how much until you’re experiencing it.

If you get it, wash the exposed area immediately with soap and water. Contain the rash by resisting the urge to scratch, applying hydrocortisone cream to it, and keeping the rash covered with a bandage.

If touching poison ivy leads to difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling, or the rash covers most of your body, get to the ER immediately.

5. Sunscreen
Sunscreens are essentially a combination of chemicals, so it may not be not surprising it could trigger an allergy. It’s actually a fairly rare allergy, but certainly a good one to know about, if you do.

A sunscreen allergy can be caused by blocking agents in the sunscreen, or even a fragrance that has been added to it. Regardless of the cause, look for symtoms such as itching or a rash/blisters on the skin. If you experience these kinds of symptoms, try a hypoallergenic formulas. If the reaction still persists, see a doctor.

Bear in mind that sometimes the reaction only occurs when the formula touches the skin and there is also sun exposure—so if you applied on your shoulders and then put a t-shirt on, you may only get a rash on your forearms.

To address this kind of allergic reaction, wash the area with soap and water to remove the sunscreen. Then, apply a cortisone cream or oral antihistamine to help relieve itching and swelling. Avoid the sun until healed.

Don’t Let Allergies Hold You Back
Summer allergies are common, but they don’t have to stop your fun! Most allergies treatable with simple over-the-counter treatments, but always talk to your doctor before self-medicating, and make sure you fully understand your risks.

Staying Out of the ER During Heat Waves

Summer is usually a season for fun in the sun. But when the heat gets extreme, it’s anything but.

Heat waves can cause serious health risks that can put you in the emergency room or even cause death. But fortunately, there is a lot you can do to reduce the impact of heat waves on your health.

 

Stay cool and safe during heat waves with these tips:

Stay Informed
Pay attention to weather forecasts each day so you know what temperatures to expect, and what the heat index will be. With this knowledge, you can plan appropriately for the weather. 

Keep An Emergency Kit
In case of a power outage, an emergency kit ensures you have what you need to get by. This list from the American Red Cross will keep you and your loved ones ready for this and many other emergency situations.

Avoid The Heat
Limit your activity outside as much as possible, especially during peak heat hours in the middle of the day. Try to spend your time in the coolest and lowest parts of your house, such as the basement. Keep your curtains and blinds closed to keep the sun out.

If you don’t have air conditioning at home, find places that do where you can spend time during the day, such as libraries, schools, community centers, or malls.

Reduce Outdoor Activity
If you must work outside, keep your activity low and take frequent breaks. Always work with someone else, and drink plenty of water—at least two to four eight-ounce glasses per hour.

Avoid drinks that dehydrate, especially beverages which include caffeine or a high sugar content.

Dress For The Heat
Wear clothing that will help you stay cool—loose, light-colored garments. It’s better to cover your skin rather than expose it, as it protects you from sunburn and encourages perspiration, which will keep you cooler. Outside, wear a hat and sunscreen.

Never Leave Children In Vehicles
It’s never safe to leave a child in an enclosed car, but it’s especially life-threatening during a heat wave. Leaving a child in an enclosed car during a heat wave could kill him/her. This also applies to pets.

Know The Symptoms
Signs of heat exhaustion include headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps and excessive sweating. If a person starts exhibiting these symptoms, move him/her to a cooler place to rest. The person should drink something with electrolytes, such as a sports drink, fruit juice or milk.

Don’t ignore these symptoms! If left untreated, the person’s condition can escalate to heat stroke, which can cause organ failure, comas or even death.

If you observe signs of heat stroke—including an extremely high temperature, redness on the skin, changes in consciousness, a rapid and weak pulse, shallow breathing, vomiting or seizures—call 9-1-1. 

Taking Precautions Can Minimize The Impact
The intensity of summer heat waves push the human body beyond its capabilities. They are a serious threat that can lead to health risks, expensive emergency room bills, and even death.

Fortunately, if you take the precautions seriously and protect yourself and your loved ones, you can minimize the impact of a heat wave on your summer fun.