Five Steps to a Healthier Fall
The upcoming Fall season means cold and flu season is near, along with ongoing concerns over COVID-19 infection rates. Ogechi Anyaoku, MD, internal medicine physician with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group in Fort Washington, MD, shares five steps you can take to stay healthy this fall and boost your physical, mental and immunity health.
Get Your COVID-19 and Flu Vaccine
With the highly contagious COVID-19 strain known as delta still prevalent, it’s more important than ever to get your COVID-19 vaccine. People who have been fully vaccinated have stronger protection against contracting this variant, along with previous variants, when compared to those who are unvaccinated.
All three COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have been evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials. They have met the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) safety and effectiveness standards and continue to undergo safety monitoring.
When it comes to potential side effects, some people have hesitations and questions on whether the vaccines will make them sick. “Some people have no side effects at all, while others may experience mild side effects such as stiffness in the arm, fatigue or a low-grade fever,” says Dr. Anyaoku. “It’s important to remember that this is a natural reaction to receiving any vaccine and is a sign that your body is developing immunity.”
Another important vaccine to remember is getting your annual flu shot. Flu vaccinations usually begin in September and are recommended each year for everyone six months of age and older. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus to others.
Wash Hands Frequently
Ensuring proper hand hygiene helps prevent the spread of germs, including the COVID-19 and flu viruses. To wash your hands effectively, make sure you’re using soap and clean water and scrub all areas of your hand for at least 20 seconds, including your palms, the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water before and after:
- Using the restroom
- Preparing food
- Touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Touching your mask
- Entering and leaving a public place
“When you can’t use soap and water to wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer,” states Dr. Anyaoku. “While hand sanitizer isn’t as effective as hand washing, it can help reduce the spread of germs. When looking at the label, make sure you’re choosing a sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.”
Get More Sleep
Unfortunately, many of us aren’t getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep our bodies need to function efficiently. According to Dr. Anyaoku, sleep plays a key role in your health and missing out on it can affect your body in several ways, including a decreased immune system, weight gain, high blood pressure and raising your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you’re having trouble getting shut-eye at night, try the following tips:
- Reduce blue light exposure from electronics. Disconnect from your devices at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. Try using blue light blocking glasses or switching to night mode on your devices
- Be consistent. Try to stick to a similar wake and sleep schedule. On your days off, don’t sleep in more than 2 hours longer than your usual wake-up time.
- Create a relaxing bedroom environment. Make your room cozy by listening to soothing music, playing white noise, or setting a cool, comfortable temperature, along with reducing external lights coming into your room.
- Try to not eat or drink later in the evening. This may help decrease your chances of waking in the night. Try to avoid consuming caffeine later in the day.
Wear Your Mask and Social Distance
Masks are critical in preventing the spread of COVID-19. By wearing a mask, you’re creating a barrier and reducing the number of respiratory droplets transmitting from person to person. “Remember to wear your mask properly and that it covers your nose and mouth,” says Dr. Anyaoku. “Some masks have a metal piece that can be pressed around your nose to create a closer fit.”
When possible, remember to stay socially distanced. When you’re in public spaces, try to put 6 feet of distance between you and others. It’s still important to avoid large crowds, both indoors and outdoors.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Dealing with the pandemic and other world events over the last year and a half have pushed the mental health of many. Your mental health is a big part of your overall health and can affect your mood, stress levels and can even play a role in your physical health. It’s important to learn healthy ways to cope with and manage stressors in our lives. Some simple ways to do this could include journaling, meditation, connecting with others, prayer or practicing gratitude.
“None of us are superhuman and sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by the state of the world,” says Dr. Anyaoku. “Make yourself a priority and carve out 15 minutes each day to focus on your mental health. If you find that you’re unable to cope on your own, that’s OK. Reach out to your doctor for additional help.”