Winter is the peak season for cold, flu and other respiratory viruses. So what can you do to protect yourself? We asked Dr. Deborah Goldsmith, an infectious disease specialist at Maury Regional Medical Center, and below are her top four recommendations for staying healthy this season:
- Get vaccinated: Be sure to get your flu vaccination. We recommend getting the vaccination as soon as possible as we are already seeing flu cases in Middle Tennessee. In addition, individuals age 60 and older are encouraged to receive the pneumonia vaccine. If you have not yet been vaccinated, please contact your health care provider.
- Wash your hands: Viruses are frequently passed through coughing and sneezing. They are also passed by touching surfaces such as door knobs, shopping carts and counter tops that may be contaminated with droplets containing the virus. The CDC recommends washing hands frequently with warm, soapy water for at least 15 seconds. Alcohol-based rubs may be used when soap and water are not readily available.
- Limit exposure risks: Babies and those with chronic medical conditions such as cancer, lung disease and diabetes are especially susceptible. Limit your exposure by avoiding crowded public places where illnesses may be spread.
- Practice healthy habits: Your overall health has an impact on fighting illnesses. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and limit stress when possible. Nicotine use is among the most harmful habits. If you smoke, vape or chew, find resources to help you kick the habit.
If you do get sick, please visit your physician or an urgent care facility. Please remember that viral illnesses vary from bacterial infections; therefore, antibiotics are not always the answer. In fact, overuse of antibiotics can result in resistance, making them less effective when you really need them.