Expert Advice on Avoiding the Dreaded Cold and Flu Season
Dr. Timothy Horton sees several sick children per day as a pediatrician. While treating children back to health, Dr. Horton manages to stay healthy despite his exposure to many germs and viruses. How does he do it?
Note: Horton splits his time at a pediatric hospital in Vidalia, Ga. and works in telemedicine with MedZed (more on MedZed below)
As a pediatrician, he is am often asked how he stays healthy when exposed to so many sick children each day. He’s only taken one sick day in 10 years of his office-based pediatric practice! On a daily basis, he is exposed to dozens of strains of colds, germs and viruses but manages to keep himself healthy through a few simple tips. Here are some of Horton’s top tips:
It’s all about the basics. Sleep, diet and personal hygiene are the foundation of your ability to fight off diseases since changes in these affect the immune system. Life will throw unexpected curve balls that will throw these things off balance and unfortunately lead to a higher risk of getting sick.
Get enough sleep. People spend a third of their lives sleeping but almost no time talking about how to be a better sleeper. Sleep is the body’s chance to heal and reset. It is perhaps the most important part of disease prevention and teaching children how to sleep well and modeling good sleep behaviors might be the best gift parents can give them. I suggest eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, but statistically, that amount will only work for 85% of people. Children, depending on their age, will need more sleep and in different patterns such as napping during the day. Focus on these sleeping patterns and not a specific number of hours for shut eye.
Also, work on your sleep hygiene! Sleep is affected by what you eat, drink and do during the day. Avoid caffeine after a certain time of day and decrease the amount of television you watch and video games your children play before bed. Exposure to television and video games, especially an hour before sleep, has been shown to affect sleep dramatically by making it harder to fall asleep and decreasing the deep, restful sleep everyone needs. As a family, work on the hour before bedtime together to promote healthier sleeping habits!
You are what you eat. Actually, your immune system is made up exclusively of what you eat. Proteins, micro-nutrients, amino acids, co-enzymes, vitamins and minerals all come from your diet and are the building blocks of your immune system.
Try cooking dinner with your children to promote healthier eating habits! Studies show that children included in meal preparation will be more invested in the meal and therefore more likely to eat it. Sure, it’ll take a little longer to prepare, but you will also get them away from the television and set aside quality time for your family.
Also, plan your meals with multiple colors. Arranging meals with fruits and vegetables of three different colors and changing the colors regularly will ensure that you get all the necessary vitamins and minerals needed.
Wash your hands frequently. Nothing is more protective against germs than hand washing, so wash them properly and frequently! Germs are everywhere – in the air we breathe, on the surfaces we touch and on the people we love, but we can’t survive without them. Surprisingly, being too clean can increase your chance of getting sick. Getting sick with the flu and common winter colds is all about the number of exposures that you allow into your body. It takes about 10,000 micro exposures to acquire a disease, and millions to come down with the rhino virus, para-influenza or the flu. Try washing you and your child’s hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to do the trick. Singing happy birthday or saying the ABC’s three times will be about the right amount of time!
To further decrease exposure, change your clothes after work, after the kids get home from school and after trips to the park, playground, the doctor’s office or church.
Get your flu shot. There are so few diseases that you can prevent, so it is critical, as parents, to take action on the ones you can. The vaccines offered by your pediatrician and local pharmacies are safe and effective.
Most people claim they get sick when they get the flu shot. This actually might be true, but getting the flu shot and getting sick after are not directly correlated. The flu shot is not a live virus vaccine, so it cannot give you influenza. The flu vaccine will protect from a few strains of influenza (four this season), but people commonly get sick from another cold such as the para-influenza or rhino virus after receiving the shot. The flu vaccine allows people to avoid the flu, the worst cold of them all, and have enough energy to fight off the rest. Local reactions at the injection site are common but minor and short lived. If you are having cold symptoms after the flu shot, you probably picked it up from work, school, the grocery store or the doctor’s office.
What is MedZed?
MedZed’s team of highly-trained pediatric nurses and pediatricians operate after normal office hours, seven days a week in the comfort of a patient’s home using secure live-streaming video and advanced medical technology. The company responds to children ages 2-17 with symptoms such as rashes, mouth, eye or ear pain, sore throats, cold and flu, UTI and bladder infections, allergies, fever and sinus problems. For more information, go to http://www.mymedzed.com/