Sharon Koehler

Winterize yourselfRecently, in spite of the pandemic, I have been to the doctor (not for COVID, just an ear infection) and I have been to the dentist. I have also been on the AARP website as I am a member, and they do have cool stuff and information. Anyway, when I was at the doctor, the dentist and the AARP website, winter precautions amid the pandemic did come up and I thought I would share what I learned. Please note: I am not a doctor or dentist. I don’t practice medicine or dentistry. This is just what was told to me by people who do.

#1 Wear a mask
This is not a political statement, just a recommendation from a professional. Yes, they are hot, irritating and fog up your glasses, but look at how many people have an illness and have no symptoms. You could get exposed and not even know it. Do you really want to take a chance on that happening to you? Better safe than sorry.

#2 Get a flu shot
More so than ever before, doctors are urging us to get a flu shot. If you get the flu, your immune system is compromised and leaves you wide open to get the COVID virus. Not to mention the fact that the flu and COVID share a lot of symptoms. Don’t take the chance of getting accidentally incorrectly diagnosed.  Plus, medical staff and supplies are at an all-time usage high. Why aggravate an already strained medical system if you don’t have to? And lastly, why would you want to sit in a doctor’s waiting room with a bunch of strangers hacking and coughing, being exposed to who knows what! Remember, the flu shot takes a couple of weeks to become effective, so get it as soon as possible.

#3 Get a pneumonia shot
for the reasons why, look at #2 and substitute the word pneumonia for the word flu. As with the flu vaccine, it does take two to three weeks to become effective, so get it as soon as possible.

#4 Check your Vitamin D levels –
Vitamin D helps support the immune system and lung function, perfect for helping fight off  viruses and other ailments affecting the lungs. It’s not a prescription; you can buy it over the counter. But, only if your physician believes it to be necessary. I personally have to take extra Vitamin D every day.

#5 Crank up the Humidifier –
For whatever reason, virus droplets hang longer in dry air than moist air. When virus droplets land on already moist air, they become heavier and fall to the ground much more quickly. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Mayo Clinic recommends a humidity level of 30-50 percent. The CDC recommends a 40 percent humidity level or higher. I have a whole house humidifier attached to my heating system that maintains 50 percent humidity, which is my comfort level. If that is not practical for you, standalone humidifiers for any room can be purchased very reasonably. I had one in the bedroom for a couple of years before I got my whole home one. They make a difference. Plus, CDC researchers found that a humidity level of 40 percent or more can cut viral infections by up to a third. Who knew?

#6  If at all possible this holiday season, shop online –
I know the mood can be set by Christmas decorations and music at the mall, or any store for that matter. There is certainly something to be said for the holiday hustle and bustle, the holiday cheer and good will toward men. It is recommended this year that shopping online is more important than ever to cut down on shopping in a crowd, and therefore lowering your chances of getting ill. To fill the void, decorate your home a bit more, ask Alexa to play you some holiday tunes, and drink some eggnog or holiday punch while you are placing your online orders. (My suggestion here is that you order as early as possible. The post office is having enough difficulties as is.) If you must go to a store or the mall, see if they have pickup service or shop at off-peak hours when the crowds are fewer. If you are considered a “senior,” check and see if the store has special senior shopping hours. It’s likely to be less crowded then as well. 

#7 Always carry a pen with you –
This one was a surprise to me until I got an explanation. Viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 2 days. The pen a cashier or waitress hands you can be loaded with someone else’s sickness. Ewww! Be safer; carry your own pen with just your germs.

#8 Change your toothbrush
Rule of thumb says you are supposed to change your toothbrush every 3 months. However, if you have been sick, change it right away. Your mouth harbors germs which transfer to your toothbrush. Changing out your toothbrush will help you not reinfect yourself, which in turn keeps you from infecting other members of your family, friends or co – workers. My dentist also recommended using mouthwash every day. It does NOT kill cold or virus germs, but it is part of a healthy dental routine that will hopefully keep you out of the dentist waiting room for an emergency visit, and less likely to catch whatever people in the waiting room have. 

There are other things that we all know about: eat healthier, wash your hands thoroughly and use sanitizer often, exercise, get some sun and outdoor time every day, stay home when possible, stay away from parties and crowds, social distance, no handshakes and keep your people bubble small. These precautions are not just to help you with COVID, but will also help you avoid the flu and other viruses. I am wishing for a safe, healthy and happy holiday season for us all!

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