As winter approaches and the temperatures drop, cold and flu season starts ramping up. With the school year in full swing, the kids are constantly bringing home all kinds of germs. If you work in an office or with the public, then you, too, are routinely exposed to a variety of bugs. Add to that all the shoppers in the stores who come out in droves during the the holiday season. All those factors combine to make it harder than ever to avoid getting sick.
With all that stuff going on, how on earth can you keep your home healthy? It’s challenging, but there are ways to make it easier to protect your family. We have all the information that can help.
Why Does Cold and Flu Season Coincide with Cold Weather?
There are a few different elements that contribute to the increased prevalence of colds and flu during the winter months:
- A lot of viruses, including COVID-19, RSV and influenza, remain stable and viable outside the human body longer in cold weather than they do in warmer temperatures. That means that the germs left behind on commonly touched surfaces, e.g., doorknobs, stand a higher chance of being transmitted to additional people.
- During the colder months, people tend to spend more time indoors – in increasing proximity to others. A cough, a sneeze or even a careless sip from someone else’s glass at a party can cause a virus to spread.
- Exposure to cold weather can suppress the human immune system’s response to infections. Plus, the reduced sunlight in winter can cause Vitamin D levels to drop, which may also play a role in someone’s susceptibility to viral infections.
- The holiday season usually means travel and family gatherings, but viruses often hop a ride from one person to another and spread across regions.
Understanding more about why it’s so difficult to combat viruses in the winter is the first step in fighting them.
Start a Daily Wipe Down to Keep Viruses at Bay
Adding a quick 15-20 minute “wipe down” of all the high-touch surfaces in your home to your daily routine is your first line of defense against seasonal illnesses. Grab the Purell, Clorox or Lysol wipes and make sure to cleanse:
- All the doorknobs
- The buttons for the garage opener
- Light switches
- The remotes for TVs and gaming systems
- Refrigerator and freezer doors
- Kitchen and bathroom cabinet handles
Furthermore, pay special attention to frequently overlooked items like smartphones, keyboards, and other gadgets. These are often breeding grounds for germs. Use electronic-friendly disinfectant wipes to keep these devices clean and free from germs.
Make Regular Hand Washing a Rule (and Reinforce the Message Constantly)
Frequent hand washing remains a cornerstone in the battle against the spread of winter viruses. Ensure that everyone in your household is in on the routine – especially the kids.
Keep hand sanitizer in the car and tuck small bottles of it into bookbags, knapsacks, briefcases and purses. Having it close at hand reminds everybody to sanitize their hands after they have been out in stores or at work. Make it a rule that everybody must wash their hands as soon as they come home, too. If you have small children, set up a whiteboard or a “star chart” on the fridge and make it a game with a reward if you want to get the practice to stick.
Maintain Optimal Humidity Levels and Good Air Quality
In addition to preventing or worsening respiratory issues, optimal humidity levels also benefit your skin. Dry indoor air can lead to dryness and skin irritation. By maintaining an adequate moisture balance, you not only protect your respiratory health but also nurture your skin during the winter months. This is important, because the skin serves as an important barrier for your body against infection.
You can get an inexpensive digital thermometer that will gauge your home’s humidity. An optimal level inside a home is somewhere between 30% and 50%. You can also increase your home’s humidity level by:
- Boiling water on the stove when you’re home
- Letting the steam from the bathroom out into the hall
- Steam clean your drapes, couches and other fabrics
- Buy a portable humidifier for the living room or bedrooms (or both)
You can also improve your humidity levels and overall indoor air quality by adding some more plants to your living environment. Plants are more than just aesthetically pleasing; they can contribute to a healthier indoor environment.
Certain houseplants, such as spider plants, snake plants and peace lilies, all have air-purifying qualities, helping to remove pollutants and toxins from the air. While they may not be a cure-all, incorporating indoor plants into your home decor can complement your overall efforts to create a healthy living space. Just be mindful of any potential allergies and choose plants that are safe for pets (if you have them).
In addition to periodically opening windows for fresh air, consider investing in an air purifier with HEPA filters. These filters capture tiny particles in the air – far smaller than the eye can see – effectively removing allergens, dust and even some bacteria from the air.
Regularly clean or replace the units’ air purifier filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Neglecting this aspect could compromise the effectiveness of the purifier and allow harmful particles to circulate in your home.
Be Mindful of Your Heating System’s Health
During the winter, you rely heavily on heating systems to keep your home warm and cozy. Make sure that your heating system is well-maintained, and that you clean or replace your filters regularly. The last thing you want to do is have dirty filters circulating dust and allergens around your home.
Look Into Creating a Winter Wellness Routine
This may sound a little “New Age,” but there really is some truth to the idea that a little self-care can boost your health. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season get you mentally and physically overwhelmed.
Try to work some morning stretches or yoga into your daily routine, take some time at your desk in between tasks to do a little deep breathing, and let yourself indulge in an extra-long hot shower or soak in the tub with some essential oils.
Managing your stress can have a significant impact on your immune function, so try to get the whole family into the act. Make sure that everybody is getting some quality quiet time and that your schedules aren’t overburdened with holiday events. Getting adequate sleep every night should also be a priority.
By embracing these strategies, you not only create a resilient sanctuary for yourself and your loved ones but also cultivate habits that contribute to a healthier and happier lifestyle throughout the winter season. Stay proactive, stay healthy and – above all – revel in the warmth of your winter haven!