Between five and 20 percent of Americans get the flu every winter. Other respiratory ailments like allergies, the common cold, and asthma can also cause problems during winter. This year, breathe easy during the cold season by following these five tips.
1. Get a Flu Shot
Image via Flickr by USACE Europe District
Although a handful of people believe that flu shots are dangerous, there isn’t any scientific evidence supporting that claim. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control recommends flu shots for children, elderly people, and those with chronic health issues. These people are at a greater risk of getting extremely sick from the seasonal flu. As recently as 2011, over 50,000 Americans died from influenza and pneumonia.
Don’t take the flu lightly. Get the shot so you can lower your risk of infection. It’s especially important if you work in education or healthcare. You won’t catch graduates of UC’s respiratory therapy program skipping their shots; they understand that influenza presents a serious threat.
2. Keep Your Home’s Air Clean
Many people suffer terrible allergies during the winter. This seems counterintuitive since there isn’t exactly a lot of pollen in the air. It starts to make more sense when you look at the air inside your house.
Indoor air pollution is often worse than outdoor pollution. That becomes a big problem during winter, when people spend more time indoors. Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep your home’s air clean so you can prevent respiratory problems. Some of the most effective things you can do include:
- changing your furnace’s air filter at least once a month
- dusting your home often, including hard-to-reach surfaces
- keeping your floors clean
- using more houseplants that filter the air
- using an air purifier if you have bad allergies
3. Avoid Sick People
The common cold and flu are caused by airborne viruses. Just breathing the same air as a contagious person can get you sick. Physical contact increases your chances of getting a virus. That’s why you should avoid people who show symptoms of respiratory illness.
That’s not always easy to do, especially if you work with people who don’t understand that coming into the office while sick puts everyone else at risk. Still, you can do your best to avoid contact. You can also use hand sanitizer to kill germs and viruses that spread through casual contact.
4. Don’t Share Keyboards
Computer keyboards are filthy. It’s not something people like to think about, but it’s true. If you share a computer with someone, even members of your household, you should consider buying your own keyboard. You may feel a bit silly carrying a keyboard to work with you, but at least you’ll lower your risk of getting ill.
5. Wash Your Hands Frequently
Washing your hands is one of the most effective things you can do to prevent winter respiratory problems. Unless you spend all winter holed up at home, you can’t avoid touching things in public. Washing your hands frequently will kill viruses before they have a chance to infect you.
What methods do you find most useful for keeping your respiratory system healthy during winter?