Thursday, February 1, 2018

Why is it so tough to stay healthy in the winter?

When air gets colder and the lake effect weather begins to roll across central Indiana, Hoosiers have a greater chance of getting sick. Mid-winter brings snow, the flu season, and a chorus of sniffles and sneezing. Everywhere you turn, people are under-the-weather, making it harder to keep your kids healthy.

sick child in winter
Don't despair. You can hang onto good health despite the challenges that winter brings. Here are six steps to help you:

1. Get a flu shot

There are a lot of misunderstandings about flu shots. The flu shot does not and cannot give you the flu. The flu shot is new each year, so if you’ve had one last year you need another this year to protect against the types of influenza viruses that the CDC has researched and thinks will be active during flu season.

Each year, flu season lasts from October to May. Though busy schedules can push back getting a flu shot out until you’ve almost forgotten, it’s never too late. Now is still a great time to talk to your doctor and schedule a flu shot.

Even after you’ve been sick, it is still not too late. Influenza strains can enter a home, mutate, and return. It is common for patients to contract influenza more than once a year.

2. Practice good hygiene

One of the reasons kids keep getting sick is because they have bad hygiene habits. Nothing cumbersome is required, just intentional behavior following good instructions, such as:
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough—and, then be sure to wash your hands afterwards.
  • Sneeze into the crook of your elbow.
  • Use antibacterial hand-sanitizer if you are in a public area.
  • Replace your toothbrush after you’ve had a cold.
Kids learn more by observing habits. Be a good role model and practice good hygiene.

3. Moisturize dry, winter skin

Skin suffers the majority of damage during the winter months, especially when your kids start playing outside. Moisturize hands and feet daily. The longer the shower or bath, the more your skin dries out. Take quicker showers and layer on lotion next.

If dry skin persists, use baby oil after you’ve gotten out of the shower—but before you dry off—to seal in moisture and protect your skin.

4. Stay active

When the weather outside is frightful, it’s hard to be purposeful about getting out of the house and doing something, but staying active pays off. When you exercise, your body releases mood-boosting and stress-fighting endorphins. These neurotransmitters are especially helpful for fighting the malaise that the short days and long nights of winter sometimes bring on.

5. Get some sun

Like staying active, it is important to see and feel the sun during winter months. If you might find yourself suffering from abnormal mood swings or minor depression, get out in the sun. Georgetown University’s Dr. Normal Rosenthal found that it only takes about ten minutes of sunlight to put people in a better mood. Plus, it is an excellent source of vitamin D.

On days when the sun won’t shine, light therapy lamps are a great alternative and several over-the-counter lamps can approximate sunlight and help alleviate winter doldrums.

Ask your doctor about Seasonal Affective Disorder to learn if light therapy is right for you.

6. Get some sleep

Make sure that you and your kids get enough sleep. Your immune system doesn’t work as well when you are sleep deprived. After the holidays, it is easy to stay up too late and get off schedule. Don’t slack off; keep your kids on a schedule with set times for going to bed and waking up.


Tips for keeping your family healthy are the same for preventing illness. Kids are never too young and adults are never too old to start using these best practices to stay healthy all winter—and all year—long.

Learn more about staying healthy physically and mentally by checking out the resources in our online wellness education center.

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