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8 Ways to Turn the Respiratory Health Odds in Your Favor

8 Ways to Turn the Respiratory Health Odds in Your Favor

No one likes it when cold and flu season approaches, except maybe those who sell more products trying to help us get better.  But the reality is, many of us struggle with respiratory health more during the winter than any other time of year.  While it is impossible to avoid every germ that comes down the pike, there are things we can do to turn the odds in our favor and breathe easier during this time of year.


1.  Avoid Germs

Germs are where the people are, and while I would never suggest you stay away from people all winter, I do suggest you stay away from sick people when possible.  As a healthcare worker, I have never had the privilege of avoiding the sick and I know many of you don’t either.  But if you can you should.  And if you’re the sick one, keep your germs to yourself.  A phone call, online chat, or using the drive thru bank window may be better than coming down with a case of bronchitis and being sick for three weeks.

It is especially important to try to protect the very young and very old members of society.  Young children often don’t have well-developed immune systems yet and can’t fight off infection well.  And as we age, our immune systems don’t function as well as they should.  So decrease the risk when you can.  Avoid malls, restaurants, and clubs when you hear colds and flus are spreading like wildfire.  Take just a temporary break from face-to-face interaction and let others keep their germs.

2.  Wash & Wipe the Germs Away

It’s not always easy or practical to stay away from germs, so the next best thing is to get rid of them as soon as possible.  Washing our hands obsessively is not a bad thing.  Healthcare workers use the expression, “wash in, and wash out.”  This means that every time you enter or leave a patient’s room you should either wash your hands or use hand-sanitizer.  This is a good practice for everyone.  Whether you’re walking into a building or out, wash up!  When walking into a room or out, it’s time to wash up!  And for heaven’s sake if you wipe snot off your nose or catch a sneeze, wash up!

Wash in, and wash out. Click To Tweet

In addition to hand washing, you will also want to keep surfaces that hands touch clean also.  Wiping down door handles, light switches, computer equipment, and bathroom surfaces will also help to remove germs that can spread disease.  Respiratory diseases are transmitted by both air and droplet.  So it’s possible to get sick from either breathing air that is contaminated or from touching something that was infectious.

3.  Eat Healthy

There’s never a better time to eat healthy then when you need your body to do extra duty.  It’s almost like getting some extra rest when you know you need to work a double shift.  Without going into a full-blown nutrition lesson, it’s safe to say that you especially want to worry about vitamins during the winter months.  And the best place to get these is from fruits and vegetables.

4.  Stay Hydrated

Drinking adequate amounts of water has been shown to be an effective treatment for respiratory illnesses.  We’ve probably all heard about getting rest and fluid when we’re not feeling well.  But it also has prevents for preventing disease too.  During the night, mucus normally settles in our airways.  When you wake up, most of the time, we can easily cough it out and open up our airways once again.  But when you’re dehydrated, it makes it more difficult to move mucus and the germs in it out of the body.  Staying hydrated helps us cough unwanted things out better.  This helps with both prevention and treatment of respiratory illnesses.

5.  Get Enough Rest

Our bodies need to get approximately 6-8 hours of sleep each night.  This not only helps our body feel refreshed but it also important to restore and strengthen.  Look at it this way; if you don’t get enough rest, it’s like not getting dressed and heading out to work.  How far do you think you’ll get before someone either stops you or calls 911?  If you don’t give your immune system time to restore and get stronger, you won’t have what you need to do the job of fighting germs.  And before you know it, you’re down for the count, sneezing, coughing, and looking for the nearest pillow.

6.  Keep the Stress Down

Stress does a number of bad things to your body.  One thing is that it decreases how well your immune system works.  Some say that if you’re under additional stress at any time in your life, you should prepare to come down with something.  Certainly, we can’t avoid all stress.  But if you sense your stress meter rising, make some plans to get some help, cut back on how much you’re doing or increase the things you like to do for fun to help.

7.  Get Exercise & Fresh Air

During the winter months, we often keep all our doors and windows shut to keep out the bitter cold air.  But what we probably don’t think about is that we are keeping all the germs inside the house too.  It’s good to get fresh air circulating in the house whenever we can.  So if you are blessed with a day that is a little warmer, open up the house for just 15 minutes or so and get some fresh air inside.  The same is true for the car; bring fresh air in on a regular basis inside of recirculating air all the time.

Another great way of getting your lungs aired out (like sheets hanging on a clothing line) is to take lots of deep breaths.  An easy way to do this is to bump up your cardio workouts.  If you’re running, biking, swimming, or hiking, you are forcing your body to take nice deep breaths.  That means oxygen and fresh air in and carbon dioxide and old, used air out.

8.  Immunize

I’m not trying to start a debate here, but the intention of immunization is to convince your body that you have already been exposed to a disease and then it will create antibodies to prevent you from getting it again.  Some immunizations last longer than others do and for some you need a series of injections rather than just one.  I do recommend that all people receive immunizations according to the schedule provided by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention).  A flu shot is recommended annually.  Other vaccines are recommended based upon your age, occupation, and travel plans.

Reflection Questions

  1.  Of the 8 items listed above, which one is the biggest problem for you?
  2. Which of the above-mentioned items do you tend never to think about?
  3. Is there someone you could share this information with to help them also?

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