Our immune systems are already pretty tired from all the battles they've been through, and combined with the cold weather and the stress of the holidays, I've stocked up on the chicken soup, Vicks Vaporub and cough syrup. But while treatment is great, prevention is even better, and I'd much rather not get a cold in the first place! That's why I was happy to receive an invitation to a Safeway Shop-Along blogger event with Heather and Whitney from Rookie Moms. We received flu vaccinations at the Safeway pharmacy, and met Dr. Risa Vatanka, Safeway pharmacist and Kerry Neville, Registered Dietitian, who shared their tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy family all winter long. Here are some of their best tips:
1) Get the flu vaccine -- the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that getting vaccinated every year is the single best way to protect against the flu. Numerous scientific studies have shown that the flu vaccine is safe, has mild side effects, and does not cause autism in children (and if you are really concerned, you can always ask for a mercury-free, or thimerosal-free, formulation for your child ). Many people say,
"Why should I get the vaccine? I never get the flu!"
I've never known what to say to that, other than
"That's like smokers living till age ninety-eight. You've been lucky, but if you ever do get the flu, you'll wish you had been vaccinated, trust me"
Thanks to Safeway pharmacist Dr. Risa, I now have a better answer:
"You may have a strong immune system -- but your children and your elderly parents don't. You can still pass the virus onto them, so getting the flu shot is still important so you don't become a carrier".
2) Stay germ-free. That seems pretty obvious, but germs are actually hardy little buggers, and spreading them --and catching them -- is easier than you think. Here's an interesting snippet if information that Safeway gave me:
According to James M. Steckelberg, M.D., Mayo Clinic Internist, [how long a virus lives] varies, depending partly on where the germ-laden droplets fall. Experiments with specific cold and flu germs have shown potential survival times ranging from a few minutes to 48 hours or more. How long such germs remain capable of infecting you in day-to-day life is harder to say.
Researchers have repeatedly found that cold and flu germs generally remain active longer on stainless steel, plastic and similar hard surfaces than on fabric and other soft surfaces. On any surface, though, flu viruses seem to live longer than cold viruses do. Other factors, such as the amount of virus deposited on a surface and the temperature and humidity of the environment, also have effects on how long cold and flu germs stay active outside the body.
If you have a cold or flu, you can avoid spreading germs by coughing and sneezing into a tissue, or into your elbows, not into your hands. And you can avoid becoming infected by washing your hands frequently, with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer. Note, your soap or sanitizer does not have to antibacterial -- as long as you wash that bacteria off your hands, it doesn't matter whether they're alive or dead! Try not to rub your eyes or bite your nails (and ask your kids to keep their hands out of their mouths and noses!). And when you use a public restrooom, don't forget to use a paper towel when you touch door handles -- or you'll undo all the good you did by washing your hands!
3) Drink plenty of liquids -- water, juice, soup, high-water content fruits and veggies -- to help clear up mucus. This is especially important if you take a decongestant, which can be dehydrating since it works by drying up mucus. Even tea and coffee count -- recent research shows that the diuretic effects of caffeine (i.e. increased urination which increases the chance of dehydration) only kick in if you consume large amounts of it — more than 500 to 600 milligrams (the equivalent of 5 to 7 cups of coffee) a day.
4) Eat healthy foods. A healthy diet leads to a strong body and a strong immune system! Go for lots of fresh fruits and veggies -- but if you can't get fresh fruits, you can rest easy knowing that canned and frozen veggies do have the same nutritional content as fresh vegetables -- just watch the sodium content, and choose low-sodium or no-salt versions.
Other ways to eat healthy are to choose whole grain pastas, minimally processed foods and mineral vitamin-fortified cereals with low sugar (10 grams or less). Having trouble figuring out which items in the supermarket are healthy choices? Just look for the green SimpleNutrition tags on Safeway supermarket shelves! Safeway puts them there to highlight items with key nutrition benefits like "Made with Whole Grains," "Sodium Smart", "Good Source of Fiber," "Low in Fat," "Good Source of Calcium", "Gluten Free," "Organic" and "Natural."
Win a $50 Safeway Gift Card
One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will win a $50 Safeway gift card to help them stay well this cold and flu season!
Leave a comment on this post and tell me how Safeway can help you stay healthy during cold and flu season. This entry must be completed before any extra entries will count. Don't forget to include your email address so I can contact you.
For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following. Please leave a separate comment for each extra entry with a way to verify the entry (i.e. tweet link, blog post link, Facebook id, Twitter id, etc.).
1) Blog about this giveaway, making sure you include a link to the giveaway in your blog post (1 entry).
2) Write this on the Bonggamom Finds Facebook page (1 entry):
I entered the Safeway Wellness giveaway! http://bit.ly/uwIR6t
3) Leave a comment on any of my blog posts on Finding Bonggamom (leave a comment here with the link to the post that you commented on).
4) Follow @bonggafinds on Twitter and tweet this, up to once per day (1 entry per day):
Win a $50 Safeway gift card on @bonggafinds! Enter by 12/21 at http://bit.ly/uwIR6t #giveaways
5) Join my Shabby Apple giveaway (1 entry)
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on December 21, 2011; I will draw 1 winner at random on December 22 and post the winner's name after he/she confirms acceptance. Continental US residents only. For additional giveaway rules, click here. Good luck!
Disclosure: I was invited to Safeway's Shop-Along event with a guest: we both received free flu shots, a Safeway gift card and a bag of groceries especially pre-selected by Safeway to help stay healthy during flu season. Thanks also to Safeway for providing the gift card for the giveaway. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.