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How Can I Stay Healthy This Winter?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common colds are the main reason children are absent from school and adults miss work. Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of two to three colds per year, and children have even more.

Winter in Iowa is a category of its own. With the temperatures dropping below normal, staying healthy and avoiding illnesses can be difficult. "Good health provides you with the opportunities to enjoy your time with family and friends and accomplish life-goals without being hampered by poor health. Poor health also negatively impacts your finances through increased medical expenses and lost wages due to work absences. As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," says Dr. Joshua Pruitt, Medical Director, Emergency Department at UnityPoint Health - Jones Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Pruitt gave his top give recommendations for staying healthy this winter.

1. Wash your hands.

Good hand hygiene is critical for stopping the spread of viruses and bacteria. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after you use the restroom, blow your nose, cover a cough or sneeze, and before you participate in any food preparation.

2. Get the flu shot!

Get your influenza vaccination, especially the young and elderly, and those with chronic respiratory conditions. While influenza vaccination is not perfect, it does prevent a large number of influenza infections every year.

3. Consistency is key.

Appropriate rest and exercise during winter contributes to your overall well-being. While it is more difficult to get exercise in Iowa with the cold and snowy winters, finding indoor activities to increase your fitness is possible. Consider things like: getting a gym membership, swimming, cycling or spin classes, yoga, or martial arts. Exercising is not more or less important at one time of the year than others. Winter just provides more barriers to getting exercise.

4. Eat healthy.

Ensure that your diet is well-balanced and includes good portions of fresh vegetables and fruits. We all tend to increase our weight during the winter months when we are less active, so make an effort to win the "battle of the bulge" with good eating habits.

5. Get social.

Avoid retreating from social interaction because of the weather. Research shows that people who have a good social network have better physical and mental health than those who are more secluded. "Currently we see many folks coming in to Jones Regional Medical Center with viral illnesses, including colds, sore throats, coughs, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea and we have only had one positive influenza test so far this season," says Dr. Pruitt.

Common symptoms of illnesses:

Sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, shortness of breath.