Robert Frost was a fan of winter and is quoted as having said, “You can’t get too much winter in winter.” Given the recent, record-setting low temperatures in our region, we are not sure how many people would agree with his sentiment, but we are sure that lung transplant patients should take extra precautions when temperatures dip and wind chills take us into the negative numbers. We recommend the following strategies to help you stay healthy through this chilly season.
Wash your hands
The CDC calls hand washing a "do it yourself vaccine" and offers a step-by-step guide as well as data supporting the recommendation for regular and effective hand washing. According to the CDC, washing your hands regularly "is an effective way to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers helpful how-to's for before, during and after severe winter weather. FEMA’s "Ready" website suggests that people venturing outside take the following precautions:
- Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing
- Choose an outer garment that is tightly woven and water repellent
- Wear mittens instead of gloves because they are warmer
- Wear a hat to prevent the loss of body heat
- Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs
While researchers are working to better understand what connection may exist between getting enough sleep and the strength of our immune systems, the health benefits associated with adequate rest are significant. Here are some habits that the National Sleep Foundation recommends to promote regular, restful sleep:
- Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning
- Avoid large meals before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual
Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, nausea and dizziness. In addition to drinking enough water, consider a home humidifier as well.
Comfort foods may be appealing when it's cold outside but nutritious food choices are as important during the winter as they are during bathing suit season. The lung transplant team's dietitian is a great resource for learning small changes to your diet that can make lasting improvements over time.
Get your flu shot
It is not too late to get your flu shot! Lung transplant recipients are advised to take only the injectable “inactivated influenza vaccine.” The flu shot uses a killed virus and is injected into the muscle. Because the virus is inactive, you cannot get the flu from taking this inoculation. Please be aware that it may take a couple of weeks for the vaccine to “take hold” and defend you against infection. Nasally inhaled vaccines are made from live, attenuated virus and are not safe for people whose immune systems are compromised or weakened.
If you have additional tips you'd like to share, we'd love to hear from you! Feel free to use the comment area below to share your successful cold weather strategies. How do you stay warm?