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How to Keep Your Family Safe and Healthy This Winter

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

1) Get the seasonal influenza vaccination. The CDC recommends that individual get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available. Everyone six months and older should receive a flu vaccine each year. This is especially important for individuals at high risk, such as pregnant women, children under the age of 2, people 50 years old and older, people of any age who have chronic medical conditions, individuals living in nursing homes or extended care facilities and health care workers.

2) Wash your hands. Hand washing is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of viral infections. To eliminate the germs that cause the common cold, influenza and gastroenteritis, wash you hands with warm water and soap for at least one minute. Suds up after using the bathroom, before eating or handling food, after blowing your nose or covering your mouth to cough and after contact with a sick individual.

3) Boost your immune system. A healthy immune system is your personal defense system against viral and bacterial infections. Get eight hours of sleep each night. Eat a balanced diet of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole-grains. Drink plenty of water, at least eight glasses each day. Exercise regularly, aim for 30 minutes daily.

4) Prepare for weather-related emergencies. Stock up on bottled water. The recommendation is one gallon per person each day and have enough to cover four days. Stock up on non-perishable foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking. Have a manual can opener available. In the event of a power outage, have flashlights, extra batteries and a battery-operated radio on hand. Charge your cellular telephone in advance of the prediction of extreme weather. Have enough medication for individuals who take a daily prescribed drug.

5) Dress appropriately and avoid prolonged exposure to extreme cold temperatures. Hypothermia and frostbite are the most common cold-related health problems. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses more heat than it can produce. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures leads to this life-threatening condition. Exposure of the skin to extreme cold temperatures leads to frostbite. Damage to affected areas can be permanent and in severe cases, can lead to amputation.


CDC: Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Shots. Web. 23, Aug. 2011.

CDC: Be Prepared: Staying Safe and Healthy in Winter Weather.Web. 23, Aug. 2011.http://www.cdc.gov/features/winterweather

CDC: Winter Weather: Stay Safe and Healthy. Web. 23, Aug. 2011.

Reviewed August 24, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.