1365 C-1 Westgate Ctr. Dr. Winston-Salem, NC 27103 Phone: (336) 768-6682

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WINTER Newsletter

Family Care offers you complete family care services.

Helping you stay healthy.

Well, winter is officially upon us.  One of the hot topics for winter is obviously the flu.  There is still time to get your flu vaccine.  I hear sporadic reports of flu outbreaks around us, but have yet to see a full-blown flu epidemic this year.

Many patients ask me how I keep from getting sick.  If you forget everything else about avoiding illness, remember this one thing: WASH YOUR HANDS. Hand washing has been shown to be the single most effective way of avoiding infection by viruses and bacteria alike.

What kind of soap should you use? Bottom line: IT DOESN’T MATTER. Manufacturers tout some of their line as “antibacterial.” ALL soap is antibacterial. I tell people when you are at a get-together, especially where food is served, after you have greeted everyone and shaken hands (and shared their germs), excuse yourself to the rest room and WASH YOUR HANDS before hitting the buffet line. While you are eating and someone new comes up and introduces themselves, offering their hand, you can politely indicate your hands are full with your goodies and touch them later.

Another way to help avoid colds and other viral infections is to use a humidifier in the cold winter months. Many people wonder if their particular type of heat is “dry” heat. ALL heat is “dry” heat in the winter months. It is simple physics that the colder the air is, the less moisture it holds. When that cold winter (dry) air is warmed to the temperature most of us would find comfortable in the winter time, the relative humidity drops like a rock. Get yourself a temperature and humidity monitor for your home. These can be purchased at many hardware and department stores for around $10. I recommend keeping the relative humidity in your living area between 35-45% in the winter. If it is extremely cold (less than 20 degrees F outside) keep it toward the lower end of that spectrum to avoid damaging your home’s insulation. I recommend a humidifier that has a humidity control so that it comes on when needed and shuts off when the desired humidity is reached. Get one large enough to take care of your whole house so that you will not have to refill as often.

When purchasing a humidifier, also purchase bacteriostatic solution specific for your type of humidifier to keep bacteria and odor down. Some people even have humidifiers placed on their furnace. These humidifiers avoid the chore of refilling and generally to not require the use of bacteriostatic solutions. The disadvantage of this system is the need for installation on your heating system, and the fact that they may not be placed on a system where there is danger of freezing (e.g. in an attic) or in a system which feeds a basement. Humidifiers should never be placed in finished basements which tend to have excessive amounts of moisture and generally need dehumidifiers.

The benefits of adequate humidity in the winter months are many. Very dry air in the winter months causes drying and cracking of mucous membranes in the nose and mouth as well as drying and cracking of skin. The skin and mucous membranes are our body’s first line of defense against infection. Dry, cracked mucous membranes in the nose and mouth are more susceptible to infection with cold and flu viruses and with bacteria which may cause sinus infections. In addition, the drying and cracking of the mucous membranes in the nose may lead to nosebleeds. Dry air also makes skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis worse. An added benefit is cutting down on the annoying shock you get when you walk across the carpet in dry rooms. Because of all these benefits, I call myself the “humidifier preacher.” (No, I don’t own stock in any humidifier company.)

Other measures to stay healthy should be common sense. Eat a well-balanced diet and get enough rest.

Have a safe and healthy winter. See you in the spring!

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