Dr. Jay Butler
Deputy Director of Infectious Diseases, CDC
As winter approaches, so do cold-weather health risks. And this year, the risk of COVID-19 makes staying safe even more important.
In addition to following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on preventing COVID-19 — which includes washing your hands, avoiding large gatherings, staying six feet away from others, and wearing a mask — these five tips will help you and your family stay healthy this winter.
1. Get a flu shot
While there is continued focus on COVID-19, we shouldn’t forget that influenza can result in serious health complications, hospitalization, or even death. Flu activity peaks between December and February and can last as late as May, so it’s not too late to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get the vaccine.
2. Stay safe at home
This is the time of year when we turn up the heat and cozy up to the fire. Most residential fires occur during the winter, so never leave fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended.
Another danger is carbon monoxide poisoning, which can lead to death but is 100 percent preventable. To stay safe, don’t use generators, grills, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning devices inside your home or garage. Install a battery-operated or battery backup CO detector which will awaken your family at night if the alarm is triggered, and have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
3. Plan for cold weather
Outdoor activities during cold weather can expose you to several safety hazards. Start by wearing warm clothing, a wind-resistant coat or jacket, mittens, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots. In very cold weather, dress in layers to avoid hypothermia. Other tips include keeping your cell phone with you, working slowly when doing outside chores, sprinkling cat litter or sand on icy patches, and taking along a buddy and an emergency kit on longer outings.
4. Protect your mental health
Coping with stress and feelings of loneliness or isolation is important to mental health. This winter, COVID-19 may cause you and your family to spend more time indoors and away from friends and family. If you or your loved ones are struggling with these issues, it is important to seek help from your health care provider or connect through other resources, such as howrightnow.org or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English and 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.
5. Eat healthy and exercise
Eating healthy throughout the holidays and the winter season can be challenging. Moderation is always the best way to avoid holiday weight gain and the added health issues that can come with it. It’s OK to indulge now and then, but focus on healthier options and limit unhealthy fats, salt, and sugary foods and drinks.
Staying active is also essential to physical and mental health. Regular physical activity helps you feel better, sleep better, reduces anxiety, and boosts immune function.
CDC recommends at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity, but the cold weather may make your normal exercise routine harder to keep up with. Going for regular walks outside with the proper clothing is one way to help maintain an active lifestyle this winter, but there are also ways to get your physical activity indoors. You can find exercise videos online to help you do aerobics, dance, stretch, and build strength. Work out with items you have around the house, such as water bottles and canned goods. Walking or running up and down stairs can be a great workout. Housework such as vacuuming, sweeping, and cleaning all count towards your physical activity goal. And you’ll knock out some items on your to-do list while gaining health benefits.
Following these five tips can help make sure this winter is full of healthy and safe memories.