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Healthy Tahoe: Health through the holidays

S. Bret Chipman, MD
Dr. S. Bret Chipman
Provided

This winter could bring the spread of a trio of viruses—another COVID-19 wave, an early and harsh flu season, and the spread of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). These viruses result in coughs, runny noses, and sore throats, and can occasionally turn serious for infants and older adults.

Through the holidays, many of us will return to pre-pandemic activities like social gatherings where viruses are likely to spread, so it’s important to understand that the immune system needs to be recharged, and how to give it a kick-start.

Keep Your Hands Clean. Washing our hands is the most important action we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands properly. Wash hands with soap and clean, running water for at least 20 seconds at these key times: before, during, after preparing food and eating, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and after using the bathroom. If soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer, rubbing your hands until dry.



Vaccinate. Vaccination offers simple, safe, and effective protection against harmful diseases before you come into contact with them. Vaccines reduce risks of disease by working with your body’s natural defenses to build protection. Now is the time to ensure we protect ourselves and others in our community by receiving timely vaccination against Influenza (flu) and COVID-19.

Eat Healthy. Eating a healthy diet can help strengthen your immune system to ward off illness. A healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and fat–free or low–fat milk and milk products. Eating well also means limiting saturated fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.



Get Enough Sleep. Sleep loss can negatively affect different parts of the immune system and lead to the development of a wide variety of disorders. Getting adequate sleep is extremely important if you’ve been exposed to a virus.

Get Active. Regular physical activity helps you sleep better and may significantly reduce anxiety symptoms, brightening your mood. Combined with eating well, physical activity can help a person maintain a healthy weight, which is linked to better immune function.

Quit Smoking. Smoking disrupts the balance of the immune system and can make the body less successful at fighting disease.

Avoid Too Much Alcohol. Drinking has a negative impact on the immune system, and you don’t have to be a regular heavy drinker for it to take its toll. According to experts, drinking 5-6 drinks in a single session can suppress the immune system for up to 24-hours.

Hydrate. On the other hand, consuming ample water is a wonderful way to boost your immune system and improve your health. Water carries oxygen to your cells and removes toxins, resulting in improved organ function and boosted immune system.

Seek Help from Vitamins. Vitamins such as Vitamin C—found in tangerines, oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits—and Zinc—found in beans, nuts, milk, whole grains, seafood, and lean meats—are proven to boost immune system function and create antibodies. Please note that too much of some vitamins can be harmful. Talk to your health care provider about vitamins before adding them to your diet.

A strong immune defense is your best chance for staying healthy this holiday season. Taking care of yourself will help your immune system take care of you.


Dr. S. Bret Chipman is a board-certified family medicine physician with Barton Primary Care. Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations are available from your primary care provider or local flu vaccination events, area pharmacies, and possibly your workplace. To learn more about flu vaccinations or find an opportunity to receive the vaccine, visit BartonHealth.org/Flu.

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