Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Flu virus and flu season

It’s that time of year again when the temperatures drop and everyone seems to be sniffling, coughing or sneezing. Some may only get a mild cold that results in congested sinuses whereas others may come down with more severe illnesses, such as the flu. This year’s flu is the harshest in over a decade with the entire continental U.S. reporting widespread flu activity.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby, or be picked up by touching a contaminated surface or object. People at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick include people 65 years and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions (asthma, diabetes or heart disease), pregnant women and young children.

It is especially important for older adults and people with compromised immune systems to keep themselves healthy because cold and flu symptoms and complications can be detrimental.

Although not completely avoidable, it is possible to keep yourself healthy and safe from illness by following these tips.

Wash your hands

This is a good habit to form even in the summer months. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Singing “twinkle, twinkle little star” or counting to twenty is a sufficient amount of time to clean the dirt and germs off of your hands. This should be the first thing you do after coughing, sneezing, spending time with ill people, going to the bathroom or right before you eat. This habit is helpful for both preventing illness and from spreading germs to others if you are sick.

Even if you do wash your hands often, avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes – places where germs can easily spread.

If you’re unable to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer

If you can’t get to a bathroom or sink to wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill germs. Carry hand sanitizer in your purse or car so you can apply it quickly after being in a crowd, touching public surfaces or coming in contact with others.

It’s also a good idea to clean and disinfect surfaces and objects in your home and at work that may have been contaminated with germs.

Get the flu vaccine – it’s not too late!

It’s the single best way to prevent from getting the flu, however if you do get the flu it may make your illness milder. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins in their community. Even now it’s not too late, the vaccine can still prevent illness. It helps protect you and people around you, including high-risk persons, such as children younger than five, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and people who have certain medical conditions.

Vaccination is also important for health care workers and other people who live with or care for high-risk people, to keep from spreading the flu to them.

Take care of yourself during winter months

A healthy routine should be maintained throughout the year, not just when the temperatures drop. To prevent illness, eat a balanced diet, especially one full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Focus on eating foods that contain the following immune-boosting vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin C – citrus fruits, red peppers, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, kale and other leafy greens
  • Zinc – beef, fortified breakfast cereal, pork, cashews and chickpeas
  • Sulfuric acid – garlic
  • Catechins – black, white and green tea
  • Vitamin D – milk, yogurt and exposure to the sun
  • Anthocyanins – blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
  • Vitamin A – carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash

Along with a balanced diet, carve out time to exercise even when curling up under a blanket is more enticing, and drink plenty of water. Make sure to get enough sleep so that you don’t get “run down” and manage stress. Lastly, dress appropriately for the colder weather.

Take precaution if you are sick

If you do get sick, take precaution to prevent getting others sick as well. Avoid going out in public, especially if you have the flu, and stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Be courteous to those around you. Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand, or use tissues and throw them away immediately. Whether you have just a cold or the flu, avoid contact with the very frail, very young and elderly who are more at risk for getting sick.

At Traditions Senior Living, we understand the importance of maintaining the health and safety of our residents throughout the year. We take the necessary precautions to ensure that illness is kept to a minimum and germs aren’t being spread. For more information, please call (615) 591-8231 or email

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