Nine Ways To Stay Healthy This Winter

By Kevin Johnson, MD

As a family practice physician and director of the Family Medicine Program at Gwinnett Medical Center, we’re already seeing an increase in the usual seasonal ills – colds, flu, sinus problems and more. To keep yourself out of the doctor’s office this winter, here are some tips to help you stay healthy:

1. Wash, wash, wash your hands. Count twenty seconds or sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to yourself as you scrub. Teach your children to wash properly, too. If you’re not near a sink, hand sanitizer is better than nothing, but it’s no substitute for proper hand washing.

2. Get a flu shot. It’s not too late, and flu season lasts well into spring. Even if you get the flu, it’s likely to be less severe than if you haven’t gotten the vaccine.

3. Bring your own pen and use it at the bank, grocery store, etc.

4. Use a humidifier at home and the office, whenever you can. Viruses like dry air and dry nasal passages. Be sure to follow the humidifier’s manufacturer instructions to keep the humidifier clean.

5. Probiotics may help. Some studies are suggesting that keeping up the good bacteria in your gut may help protect against the cold or flu. While you can purchase probiotics in pill form, they’re also available naturally in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut (fresh, not canned), kimchi, miso soup, some cheeses (like Gouda), kefir, sourdough bread or tempeh.

6. If you’re prone to allergic rhinitis (allergies which affect your sinuses), take an antihistamine to reduce inflammation and keep sinus passages open. This will reduce your risk of a secondary infection.

7. Limit alcoholic drinks to no more than two glasses a day. Drinking more than this may suppress a reflex that protects your airway when you swallow, letting particles and germs from your mouth potentially get into your airway. Plus alcohol expands blood vessels, which can increase congestion and the risk of secondary infections.

8. At the first sign of a cold, take zinc, but only one or two lozenges. Research suggests this may help shorten the duration of a cold.

9. Clean your house. Use a product that has antimicrobial properties (Clorox, Pine-Sol, etc.) to kill germs on surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, the TV remote, etc.  This is especially helpful if you have children in the home.

If you don’t have a family physician, here at the Strickland Family Medicine Center we see patients of all ages, whether it’s for a check-up or you’re not feeling well.

Learn more at or call 678-312-0400.


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