Punxsutawney Phil may have seen his shadow this year, but winter is still upon us, one of the worst cold and flu seasons we have witnessed in quite some time. The most recent estimates from the CDC, at the time of this post, indicate that at this point in time, there are some 22 million cases of the flu or similar respiratory illnesses, with 250,000 hospitalizations and approximately 15,000 deaths. And there does not seem to be an end in sight.

At Innova Primary Care, we want to see our patients and community thrive. During the winter months, respiratory illnesses explode, meaning the likelihood of contracting illness is high. While you cannot stop every germ, you can take preventative measures to keep your immunity high and yourself and those you love safe. Read on for more information on how to stop the spread of winter illnesses and, hopefully, stay away from the doctor’s office.

Get vaccinated

Your best line of defense against the detrimental effects of the flu is to receive a vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu vaccine can reduce the possibility of contracting well-matched viruses by between 40 and 60 percent. While the vaccine might not prevent the contraction of the flu, it can also lessen the severity, making it a no-brainer when it comes to prevention. The flu virus typically peaks in February and can last until May, so there is still time to get vaccinated.


Keep germs at bay

Prevention is the best cure for staying well this winter season, and the best thing you can do to help prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses is to keep your hands clean. You don’t have to go wild with this one, either. We’ve all been washing our hands since childhood, but did you know there is a best way to wash up so that you get maximum benefits without destroying your skin? Here’s a step-by-step guide to obtain the best results.

  1. Start with wetting your hands under running water; cold or hot water will do.
  2. Use soap and get your hands nice and lathered.
  3. Be sure to rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, covering the palms, outside of the hands, and wrists and getting into the challenging parts like underneath your fingernails.
  4. Rinse
  5. Using a clean towel, get your hands nice and dry.

None of this is earth-shattering news, but those 20 seconds really do count, as well as cleaning all parts of your hands, not just the palms.

Eat a nutrient-dense diet

There is tons of research and data to suggest that a diet rich in micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, and macronutrients, think protein, fat, and carbohydrate, goes a long way to help boost immunity by getting an adequate supply of the necessary nutrients to the cells responsible for immunity. And the truth is, this data keeps on coming. We now know how vital nutrition is in helping us stay well and fight against illnesses. Diets lacking nutritional support and nutritional deficiencies are linked to a poor immune response.

Here’s a great list of nutrients to consider when building your balanced, nutrient-dense eating plan:

  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D
  • Probiotics
  • Protein
  • Beta Carotene

The key takeaway here is to build a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, adequate protein, and healthy fats not only provide substantial immune support but also help with satiety. Think color and whole foods as you make your grocery list this week. Your body and your immunity will thank you! If getting the proper nutrients in your daily diet is challenging, you can always supplement with a good multivitamin to help fill in the gaps.

Get adequate sleep

Did you know that sleep is considered a pillar of health, and nearly one-third of Americans say they do not get enough sleep? There is a connection between adequate sleep and immunity, so prioritizing rest is paramount if you want to stay well this winter. While everyone is different, the best recommendation for nightly sleep is between seven to eight hours for the average adult.

Here’s another thing you may not know: sleep really does help when you are sick. Perhaps when you were younger and felt terrible, your mom or dad forced you into bed. There is an excellent reason for that. When we are sick, rest becomes crucial for repair and to help assist the immune system fight off infection.

While it may be a challenge to rest when you don’t feel well, research shows that attempting rest is well worth it.


Stay physically active

In the dead of winter, when the temperatures are bone chilling and the days are shorter, it is hard to get into physical activity. However, maintaining your current exercise routine or starting a new one if you are not getting much movement in can benefit your immune health.

Moderate exercise helps your immune system and is an adjuvant, boosting your body’s ability to stay well and fight infection. An entire field called exercise immunology is dedicated to the science of exercise and immunity.

A review of research data from the Journal of Sport and Health Science has some key takeaways regarding the value of exercise and immunity. Most importantly, there is a relationship between illness risk and moderate exercise in that exercise helps lower the risk of illness. Along with this crucial point, exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, thus reducing risk as well.

So, what does this mean for you? Moderate exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, weight training, or whatever gets you up and going, is a great way to boost your immune system.

Staying well

Staying well and boosting your immunity does not have to be complicated. In our information-saturated world, it is easy to get overwhelmed with data. So many voices tell us to drink this particular green juice or take this supplement, and all will be well. The reality is that boosting immunity is simple enough. Get vaccinated if you can, keep your hands clean to prevent the spread of germs, sleep well, eat a diet rich in nutrients and whole foods, and get moving. It may sound like a lot, so start small and build your habits one at a time.

Here at Innova Primary Care, we want to see you well during the winter months. We know this can be challenging, so please reach out for ways you can boost your immunity and continue to live a healthy life. We are here for you every step of the way.