During the holiday season, it is easy to put aside health as area residents focus on celebrating the season with family and friends, according to the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.
But the holidays fall in the middle of the annual flu season; close quarters, stress and lack of sleep during this time of year can make us more vulnerable to illness increasing the need to avoid the spread of germs.
"One of the most important steps a person can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others is keeping their hands clean," said Joyce Ziegler, Community Health Services Director for the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.
"Adults and children should wash their hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing," Ziegler said in a statement.
Hand washing is simple. Just follow these steps:
- Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
- Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
- Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. This is about the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice through.
- Rinse hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. Sharing cloth towels can spread germs.
If possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.
In addition to hand washing, there are several other good health habits to practice now and throughout the rest of the winter season that can help your body stay healthy and fight off the flu and other illness.
Public health professionals in Michigan recommend the following:
- Eat a balanced diet including plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grain products.
- Drink plenty of water and go easy on salt, sugar, alcohol and saturated fat.
- Exercise regularly. Thirty or more minutes of physical activity most days of the week can help boost your immunity.
- Get plenty of rest. Sleep is shown to help your body fight off illness.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread this way.
- Stay away from people who are sick as much as you can.
- If you get sick, stay home from work or school.
"At this time of year, sickness and disease are the last things anyone should have to worry about, which is precisely why we should not let preventable health conditions get in the way," said Ziegler.
Additionally, inactivity and poor nutrition leads to obesity which contributes to a number of leading risk factors of heart disease, including higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure and increased risk for diabetes.
The American Heart Association recommends a diet that:
Is rich in fruits and vegetables.
Contains whole-grain, high-fiber foods.
Includes fish twice a week, especially oily fish like salmon or albacore tuna.
Includes lean meats.
Includes fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1 percent) dairy products.
Minimizes beverages and foods with added sugars.
Has little or no added salt.
Limits alcohol intake.