6 Public Health Tips to Keep You Thriving

See also: Improving Your Wellbeing

Just when omicron became a household name, reports of a new COVID-19 variant came along — B.1.640.2. It might not have a groovy Greek moniker, but it still means taking precautions when in public.

Chances are, some nasty bug will always swirl in the air. What can you do to prevent getting sick?

While nothing is foolproof, the following six public health tips can help keep you thriving.

1. Wear a Mask

There’s some good news for you if you live in an area where mask mandates went the way of the dodo right after the initial COVID-19 surge two years ago. Covering up offers you some protection, even if no one else in the building bothers to blanket their nose and mouth.

The degree of germ-stopping power depends on the quality of the mask and your proximity to others. For example, riding an elevator to the 20th floor poses more risk than being in the same sparsely populated warehouse as others.

If you run a high risk of complications from infection due to an autoimmune disorder or other medical condition, opt for an N95, KN95 or KF94 model. However, any facial covering offers some protection, as does refraining from talking in cramped spaces and sanitizing your hands after touching mutual surfaces like buttons.

2. Keep Up Your Hygiene

Better yet, wash your hands while singing “Happy Birthday” twice after contact with the public. The drastic decline in flu rates during the initial COVID-19 surge shows the power of improving your hygiene practices on preventing infectious disease.

Certain activities demand handwashing, like the following:

  1. Before and after taking care of someone who’s sick
  2. Before and after cleaning a cut or wound
  3. After using the toilet or changing a diaper
  4. Playing with or cleaning up after pets
  5. Coming inside after playing outdoors
  6. After taking out the trash
  7. Before preparing any food or eating

It’s not enough to rinse — you need to scrub. Get under your nails. They harbor the same germs as the rest of your hands, but in much greater concentrations, in case you need another reason to stop biting.

When applying sanitizer, rub your hands until all the liquid disappears. Wiping it off on your pants results in a less effective job. The version you choose should contain at least 60% alcohol.

3. Take Your Vitamins

The right nutrients can make you feel less miserable and help you heal more quickly if you get sick. However, you have to have a steady supply on hand when germs first invade. For example, vitamin C can shorten the duration of a cold by a day, but only if you have plenty of this water-soluble nutrient in your system when symptoms appear.

Supplements like a multivitamin with zinc help, but your body absorbs nutrients more effectively from food. You don’t have to embark on a drastic diet. Simply follow these principles to get more of what you need:

  1. Go plant-based: Plants are powerhouses of various phytonutrients and antioxidants. Scientists still don’t know all they can do, but mother nature provided a handy-dandy color code. The same chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their hues imply different nutritional profiles, so strive to eat a rainbow each day.

  2. Think whole foods: Ultra-processed foods laden with white sugar and flour wreak havoc on your blood glucose, increasing inflammation and taxing your immune response. Instead, opt for snacks like nuts close to their natural form and bursting with immune-boosting nutrients like zinc.

  3. Choose healthy fats: Although the FDA banned trans fats, some people have sensitivities to certain oils. Plant-based oils are generally considered healthy but go light. Olive and avocado oil are particularly good choices.

If you decide to go the supplement route, eat a healthy meal before taking your pill. Some minerals like zinc can make you nauseous when taken on an empty stomach.

4. Purify and Humidify Your Air

One reason people tend to get sick more often early in the year lies in the air they breathe. Germs proliferate in cool, dry conditions. The forced air heat in many office buildings evaporates your first line of defense against germs, the mucus lining your airways. The arctic outdoor winds only compound the problem.

Adding a humidifier could lower your chances of infection. Aromatherapy aficionados go a step further, adding a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil. The scent activates receptors in your brain that kick your immune system into a higher gear.

Even if you skip the fragrance, you should change your filters. Doing so preserves the life of your HVAC system and lowers the number of germs swirling in your building.

5. Treat Snow Removal Like a Sport

You might think of shoveling as nothing more than a reason to grumble. However, it spells death for roughly 100 people a year. Snow removal is a physical activity that requires a proper warmup and training like any sport.

Elevate your heart rate before heading out by marching in place and performing a few dynamic stretches. Pace yourself and take regular breaks every 15 minutes or whenever you feel tired. If you have balance and coordination issues or a heart condition, consider hiring someone to help.

Another option? Consider investing in a snowblower to make the task less strenuous. These devices are invaluable if you have a large space to clear or a long, steep driveway. If you’re a bit short on cash, check with small appliance repair shops in your area that may sell refurbished models for a reduced price.

6. Stay Warm and Get Your Zzz’s

Catching a chill won’t automatically result in illness. For that, you need a germ. However, excess cold exposure can lower your immune function, making you more likely to get sick from any bacteria or viruses that cross your path. Bundle up nice and toasty, dressing in layers so that you can strip down to avoid overheating when you come inside. Sweat can leave you shivering when you go back in the wind.

If you find you feel more tired than usual this time of year, it’s okay to indulge in a little extra shuteye. It’s what early humans did to survive the cold season. Maintain sleep hygiene by going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day — but feel free to tack on an extra 15 minutes to either end. Your body performs vital immune functions while you slumber, like producing cytokines that help you keep thriving.

Keep in mind that sleeping too much can be a sign of depression. If you feel like you can’t get out of bed, it might be time to call your doctor. Medications and talk therapy can ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

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Public Health Tips to Keep You Thriving

Two years after the initial news of the COVID-19 pandemic broke, the threat remains. Plus, regular cold and flu germs can still pose threats.

However, you can take proactive measures to prevent illness and sail through the cold season. Follow the six public health tips above to keep thriving.

About the Author

Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you'll find her in a yoga class, advocating for body positivity, whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or smashing the patriarchy.