Staying healthy in the winter can be challenging as respiratory illnesses, holiday indulgences, and the lack of sunlight can leave us feeling lethargic and unmotivated. However, there are concrete steps you can take to fight the winter blues and stay healthy all season long.
The number of people with illnesses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), flu, and COVID-19 increase in the winter months due to changes in weather, atmospheric pressure, and limited daylight hours. All of these facts pose a serious challenge to staying mentally and physically at our best in the winter.
Battling the winter health blues
1. Hand hygiene
Washing your hands is the best way to prevent illness and stay healthy. You should also minimize the number of times you touch your face. The CDC recommends washing your hand with ample soap for at least 20 seconds. You should wash your hands after using the bathroom, before touching food, leaving a public place, or anytime they have been soiled.
2. Get more light — real or artificial
Research shows that time spent in nature and sunlight has significant mental and physical health benefits. Unfortunately, sunlight can be in short supply in many parts of the world in the winter months. So much so that some people develop the seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to seasonal changes. Thankfully, newer research also shows similar benefits from artificial light exposure. So get outside in nature if you can, but artificial light from commercially available lamps are also a great source — especially in the morning.
3. Get vaccinated
Unfortunately, no matter how great your hand hygiene is, it is impossible to completely stop the spread of germs. That’s why vaccines are vital — they save lives and prevent the worst health outcomes. Flu and COVID-19 are two great vaccines that will help keep you healthy this winter and are widely available in the US. In September, a new COVID-19 bivalent booster was released. This new version of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offers coverage from the original COVID-19 strain and two Omicron subvariants. These subvariants now represent the vast majority of COVID-19 cases in the world today.
Whatever this season brings, following these three steps will help keep you healthy and protect your community this winter.