Peter Reisner, M.D.
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The holidays are a wonderful time for family, friends and celebrations, but poor health can ruin your holidays. Winter can take a toll on your physical and mental health, even in the middle of a family gathering. So, what can you do to stay healthy this winter?
Drink water. Winter may be a good time for hot cocoa and cider, but always make water your drink of choice. While hot beverages can be great for warmth, remember to keep it balanced with at least eight cups of water per day. A glass of water with and between each meal can keep you hydrated, healthy and ready to fight off any germs winter may bring.
Stress less. Over-the-top holiday excursions can be stressful, which is not how you should be spending this joyful season. Focus on your holiday traditions — don’t worry about the rest. Make time for friends, family and good cheer, and embrace relaxation when you can. Don’t neglect the value of sleep, either. Do all that you can to stick to a normal sleep schedule even around all the celebrations and traveling. Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, daytime napping and large meals before bed. These factors can interfere with a good night’s rest.
Dress warmly. Remember headwear that fully covers your ears, mittens rather than gloves and well-insulated socks when dressing for the weather. Instead of wearing one big coat, dress in several layers of loose, warm clothing. This will better protect you against wind, snow and rain. If your clothes become wet, change them as soon as possible.
Limit time in the cold. Pay attention to weather forecasts and wind chill readings. Dress accordingly, but also watch for signs of frostbite, such as red or pale skin, prickling and numbness. Seek emergency help right away if you experience any signs of hypothermia, including intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. These cold-weather hazards can be prevented if you take measures to protect yourself against the cold, such as packing an emergency supply kit and warm clothing while traveling.
Exercise. The cold air can sometimes discourage us to keep up with our fitness routines. It’s easy to let these habits slide for the season, but remember that regular activity can keep you healthy, both mentally and physically. If the temperature is below 0 degrees or the wind chill is extreme, use that time to choose an indoor exercise. Workout DVDs are a great tool to get you moving in the comfort of your home. If you’d like to exercise outside, dress appropriately. Too many layers can make your overheat, so choose layers that you can easily remove.
Keep the germs away. Three words: Wash your hands! This is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading common winter illnesses, such as colds. Germs accumulate through nearly everything you do or touch, so wash your hands frequently. Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing all surfaces and rinsing well. Also, get a flu immunization to avoid catching the flu during the coldest time of year.
Following these tips can ensure you have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.