86489674It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The snow is falling, the snow tires are back on, and you’re right back into the winter spirit. As fun as this annual holiday bonanza is, there are some health pitfalls. Here are five simple ways that everyone can stay happy and, more importantly, healthy when old man winter arrives.

  1. Wash your hands. You think you’ve been told that enough already? Well, we will tell you one more time because it is that important. We like to think that we will avoid the flu or a cold, but denial can be deadly. According to the CDC, as many as 49,000 Americans die of the flu each year. There is a proper way to wash your hands. Just use warm or cold water with soap and scrub vigorously around the hands, wrists, and between the fingers for 20 seconds. Then dry them with a paper towel or hand drier. It’s that easy. Who could’ve thought that such a simple thing could rid the germs and other biotic invaders?
  1. Wear warmer clothes. This might sound like common sense, but there is a critical reason for dressing warmly. When the temperature drops it may affect your immune response. There is a reason your body temperature is 98.6 degrees – your body works best when you’re in that sweet spot. Once the temperature drops even the slightest bit that is when you’re most vulnerable to ailments like the common cold. That means put the shorts in the attic and wait until spring.
  1. Say no to third helpings during holiday meals. Everybody loves the holidays, where indulging is not only condoned, but sometimes is encouraged. Many of us will consume more than our share of calories and fat. You may think a little more turkey and mashed potatoes won’t hurt, but the body has a process of turning excess protein into fat; not to mention that the starch in potatoes is just a complex sugar, and we all know what excess sugar does to the body. Follow this rule of thumb: Everything is good in moderation. For more information on healthy eating this holiday season, learn all about portion control.
  1. We are not bears, we do not hibernate. The summertime warmth provided a great excuse to go outside and stay active. Now that winter is back from vacation, you need to find a way to stay active. For some, that may mean putting on the right athletic attire and jogging through the snow. For others, that means finding a nice, heated gym. Regardless of whether you have the heat capacity of a polar bear, or if you’d just rather stay inside, it is paramount to stay active during winter’s tenure.
  1. Traction is everything. Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up….Mostly because it is really icy. You may not want to spend $130 on boots and lug them around all day, but sometimes you have to choose between 130 dollars and being in a brace or cast for a few more months than you would have wanted. Nobody wants to break bones and the only thing separating you and catastrophe is an inch of rubber. There are companies that make attachable tread-enhancers for consumer-conscious prices. Regardless of your method or your madness, it’s paramount to have shoes that can keep you vertical on semi-slippery surfaces.

Cole Picard, a student at Essex High School, is a marketing and communications intern at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

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