Cold and Flu Season – Staying Healthy
The cold weather makes us want to stay inside. But don’t let colds and flu stop you from going to the spa! With some simple steps, you can still get relaxing massages and enjoy the steam room while staying healthy.
This winter, there are things you can do to boost your immunity. You can prevent germs at the spa by washing your hands often. Make sure to get enough rest before and after your spa visits. Follow these self-care tips to safely enjoy the spa even when everyone around you is sick. Taking care of yourself will help you fight off winter colds and flu. You’ll be refreshed and have more energy to take on the winter season!
The first signs of a cold or flu are a runny nose, sore throat, and feeling tired. Cold and flu season is coming soon. Now is the time to start getting healthier.
Whether you work at a spa or visit one, you need to know how to stay safe. Make sure your spa follows good health practices. Don’t let them put your health at risk! Know what to look for when you go to the spa and wherever else this winter.
In an average year in the United States, over 40,000 people die from the flu. Seasonal flu has been long blamed on such things as being indoors in cold weather, low immune system, humidity, temperature, and ultraviolet radiation. Last year, researchers directly tested the hypothesis that weather conditions, specifically low temperatures and relative humidity, spread flu faster than at high temperatures and relative humidity.
According to the study in the journal PLoS Pathogens, the researchers found that low (dry) relative humidity in the range of 20 to 30% produced the spread of the flu (influenza) virus faster than at relative humidity in higher percentages. In fact, at a humidity of 80% or above, their research found no spread of the flu.
With respect to temperatures, the researchers, who are based at the Mount Sinai Medical School of Medicine, found that the flu virus spread the fastest at 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) and the slowest at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). At 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), there was no transmission of the virus.
Personal Story: Challenges at The Spa
There were two major challenges that spas faced during the cold and flu season.
As a massage therapist in a Resort Spa environment, I was only too familiar with the cold and flu season. Spa guests come from all over the world, and along the way, they may have picked up germs from the airplane, people at the airport, eating in restaurants, or in the restrooms they used. I knew I had to be especially diligent during this time of year, or I could easily be sick the entire season.
1) Employees coming to work even when they do not feel well. They may feel forced to work because they cannot find a replacement to work their shift. They may decide to work because they want to satisfy the spa clients, or they may choose to work because they are on commission, have no benefits, and need the money.
2) Clients who come in for their service because the spa policy requires 24-hour notice if they are going to cancel an appointment. They do not want to pay for services that they did not have, or the clients may come in for the service because the clients are unaware that they are ill and are only having mild symptoms.
Regardless of how this occurs, it leaves an unhealthy situation for all involved. These sick individuals can contaminate everything and everyone that they come in contact with like in our daily life. Including door handles, gym equipment, sink faucets, massage tables, and face cradles; spread the germs through handshakes, hand massage, and sneezing.
Better Understanding: Is it a Cold or the Flu? How to prevent Cold and Flu?
Cold and Flu are two distinct illnesses; there are some essential differences between the two that you should keep in mind:
- Temperature: With a cold, you have a low-grade temperature, but with the flu, temperatures can reach 102 degrees or more.
- Localized versus widespread: A cold usually remains localized in the nose and rarely spreads to the lower respiratory system, while the flu causes overall discomfort, including headache, sore throat, generalized body ache, and fatigue.
- Duration: A cold is of shorter duration, lasting between two to five days, while the flu lasts between five to seven days.
A Healthy Environment Matters: For Keeping You Healthy
Here is a list of common areas where cold and flu germs hide. Keeping these areas clean and sanitized and avoiding risky behaviors will lower the opportunities for you to become sick.
Proper cleaning with soap and water, spraying with Lysol, or sanitary wipes, depending on the item, will help.
- A typical worker’s desk has almost 21,000 germs in a square inch
- An office toilet seat carrying 49 germs a square inch
- The average desk harbors 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
- Phones, computer keyboards, and computer mice are refuges for germs because people use them so often.
- Restrooms: Statistically, people tend to use the middle stall in public restrooms.
- Take care after using the bathroom; a single hand can have a population count of more than 200 million bacteria per square inch.
- An average of only 1 in 6 people wash their hands after using the restroom.
- When you sneeze, germs can travel at 80 miles per hour across a room.
- One microbe can grow to become more than 8 million germs in just one day.
- A kitchen cutting board harbors 50 times more bacteria than your toilet seat.
- Viruses can survive on common surfaces like faucet handles for up to 72 hours
- Grocery Carts: They not only hold your groceries but also mucus & saliva due to children placing their mouths on the cart handle! Not to mention the dirty diapers on the seat of the cart pull-out
- Elevator Buttons: The first-floor elevator button is a huge culprit for flu/cold germs
- Cleaning Sponges: Also known as the “bacteria cafeteria.”
- Coffee Mugs: Clean your coffee mug every night. Please do not use the office sponge to wash it.
- Use a paper towel when touching doors, knobs, locks, flushers, and toilet seats.
- Restaurant tables may be more germ-infested than toilets if the staff does not wash and sanitize the table properly or if they use a dirty towel or sponge to wipe it down. Clean any silverware that is directly on the table, and always place your silverware on your plate or on top of a napkin.
- Shaking Hands: One of the main culprits for passing cold/flu germs
- Filtration systems on airplanes are supposed to prevent cold/flu viruses from circulating in the air. However, watch out for your seatmates, the tray tables, and information packets.
- The necktie just took on a new meaning; half of the neckties worn are swarming with disease-causing germs. When did you last clean your ties or scarves?
- Subways, taxis, and mass transit are all areas to be avoided during cold & flu season.
- Touch & Go: Germs can live on surfaces such as door knobs, ATM Machines, gas pump keys, handrails, money, TV remote controls, light switches, refrigerator and microwave door handles, movie theater seats, and other items people touch in public places.
Prevention and Strengthening Your Immune System
While colds may not kill you, they can weaken your immune system to the point that other, more serious, germs can take hold in your body. Just think how many times your cold turned into bronchitis or a sinus infection.
A robust immune system is the best defense for cold and flu prevention. Practice good health habits such as getting adequate sleep, exercising, managing your stress, drinking plenty of fluids (especially water), and eating a nutritious diet.
Prevention from cold and flu comes from staying healthy, clean environment and strengthening your immune system so that if you are exposed to these germs, you do not get ill.
Building Resilience and Staying Healthy: Healthy Habits to Ward Off Cold and Flu During the Chilly Months.
Wash Your Hands.
Cold and flu viruses mainly spread through direct contact. For example, someone with the flu sneezes into their hand and then touches objects like phones, keyboards, or cups. The germs can live for hours on these surfaces. When the next person touches the same object, they can pick up the germs. So remember to wash your hands often.
Washing your hands just once is often not enough, even with antibacterial soap. Researchers at Columbia University found that washing twice removes more germs from hands. If you can’t wash, rub your hands vigorously together for a minute. Then, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
This helps get rid of cold germs when you can’t wash.
It’s important to keep your hands clean after washing, too. Studies show many people don’t wash after using public restrooms. Then, they all touch the same door handle on the way out. After washing, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the doors. This prevents the spreading of germs, according to the CDC.
To stop germs from building up, use paper towels instead of cloth towels. Cloth towels harbor more germs. The best prevention is washing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds frequently. This simple step can stop colds from spreading. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer.
Don’t Touch Your Face.
Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Touching their faces is the foremost way children catch colds and a key way they pass colds on to their parents.
Take a Sauna.
While the exact mechanism is unclear, evidence suggests saunas may help prevent colds. A 1989 German study found that people who used the sauna twice a week had 50% fewer colds compared to those who did not use the sauna. One theory: When you take a sauna, you inhale air hotter than 80 degrees, a temperature too hot for cold and flu viruses to survive. Visit a spa with a sauna or purchase a home model.
Take care of Your Toothbrush.
Place your toothbrush in the microwave on high for 10 seconds to kill germs that can cause colds and other illnesses. Your toothbrush is a breeding ground for germs. Sterilize it in the microwave before each use, store it in hydrogen peroxide (rinse well before using), or replace it every month or after you’ve had a cold.
If your sink is in the same room as your toilet, close the toilet seat before flushing, keeping germs from spraying throughout the room onto your toothbrush or towels. If you prefer, you may use a UV Toothbrush sanitizer.
Getting Fresh Air is Important.
A regular dose of fresh air is essential, especially in cold weather when central heating dries you out and makes your body more vulnerable to cold and flu viruses. Also, during cold weather, more people stay indoors, which means more germs are circulating in crowded, dry rooms.
As the weather starts to get colder, getting your daily exercise requirement seems less desirable, but your body has a better chance of fighting off viruses if you are in good shape.
Doing a minimum of 30 minutes of daily exercise will safeguard your body from the onslaught of germs that the cold and flu season brings. The first randomized clinical trial to investigate the impact of moderate physical activity on common-cold incidence, conducted by Cornelia Ulrich, Ph.D., and colleagues, found that postmenopausal women who exercised regularly for a year cut their risk of colds in half compared to those who didn’t routinely work out.
Moderate daily exercise of 30–45 minutes is recommended. These findings were reported in the November 2006 issue of The American Journal of Medicine. While moderate exercise is very beneficial, exceptionally strenuous exercise presents unique challenges.
Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones. Even being around smoke profoundly zaps the immune system. Smoke dries out your nasal passages and paralyzes cilia. These are the delicate hairs that line the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs and, with their wavy movements, sweep cold and flu viruses out of the nasal passages. Experts contend that one cigarette can paralyze cilia for as long as 30 to 40 minutes.
Stress increases your susceptibility to colds. In fact, stressed people have up to twice the number of colds as non-stressed people. If you can teach yourself to relax, you can activate your immune system on demand.
There’s evidence that when you put your relaxation skills into action, your interleukins — leaders in the immune system response against cold and flu viruses — increase in the bloodstream. Train yourself to picture an image you find pleasant or calming. Do this 30 minutes a day for several months. Keep in mind relaxation is a learnable skill.
Stay Home When You First Feel Sick.
Dragging yourself into the office when you are sick puts your co-workers at risk. Use common sense and stay home if you have obvious cold and flu symptoms. The general rule is to stay at home for at least 24 hours until the symptoms subside. Remember: sometimes all your body needs is rest and some time to heal.
Cover Your Mouth and Nose.
When you cough or sneeze with a tissue. Use tissues, dispose of them properly, and wash your hands so you do not spread it to others. Suppose you do not have a tissue, sneeze, and cough into your arm. We have been taught to cover our mouths with our hands when we cough or sneeze; however, that just puts the germs right on our hands, where we can spread them to objects and other people.
Instead, sneeze or cough into a tissue or hold the bend of your elbow over your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough if a tissue isn’t handy. It’s pretty rare that you shake someone’s elbow or scratch your eye with an elbow. This will help reduce the spreading of the germs to others. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or ears.
According to the National Institutes of Health, rhinoviruses can live up to three hours on your skin. They also can survive up to three hours on objects such as telephones and stair railings. Cleaning environmental surfaces with a virus-killing disinfectant can help prevent the spread of infection. Sanitize your work area so you do not spread the illness to others, and sanitize areas that you share with others prior to use.
Change and wash your hand towels every day during cold and flu season. When you wash them, use hot water to kill the germs.
Boost Your Immunity: Winter Wellness Consumables Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
Drink Plenty of Fluids.
Water flushes your system, washing out the poisons as it rehydrates you. A typical, healthy adult needs eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids each day. How can you tell if you’re getting enough liquid? If the color of your urine runs close to clear, you’re getting enough. If it’s deep yellow, you need more fluids.
Take Vitamin E Please.
Vitamin E may help protect against the common cold, according to a Tufts University study. As reported in the August 18, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a year-long study with 617 people aged 65 and older found that daily supplements of 200 IU of vitamin E helped reduce the incidence of the common cold by 20 percent. Vitamin E is best absorbed when taken with a meal that has some fat.
Phytochemicals is Your Friend.
Eat Foods Containing Phytochemicals. “Phyto” means plants, and the natural chemicals in plants give the vitamins in food a supercharged boost. So put away the vitamin pill and eat dark green, red, and yellow vegetables and fruits.
A good hearty soup warms the body and soul on a chilly day. Add some cold-fighting ingredients, and you’ll have a magical combination. Garlic, onion, and shiitake mushrooms all have wonderful antibacterial and antifungal properties and make flavorful additions to soup recipes.
Yogurt For Your Immune System.
Yogurt is excellent for creating good bacteria in your intestines to boost total body immunity. A study from the University of California-Davis found that people who ate one cup of yogurt (live culture or pasteurized) had 25 percent fewer colds than non-yogurt eaters.
Researchers think the beneficial bacteria in yogurt may stimulate the production of immune system substances that fight disease. A few spoonfuls a day can be effective preventive medicine.
But stay away from yogurts laden with sugar and candy or that don’t claim active cultures on the label. Also, enteric-coated Acidophilus Pearls are a sure shot for helping the good bugs in yogurt survive stomach acid and make it into the gut intact.
Sugar makes the body acidic, and pathogens tend to live on sugar. So, especially during cold and flu season, reduce sugar intake. Drinking lemon juice hot or at room temperature is excellent for maintaining alkalinity. When you feel less than 100 percent, add more fruits and vegetables to your diet to promote alkalinity. I also drink alkaline water processed by a Juniper Water Ionizer to help maintain my body more alkaline.
Stay Hydrated in a Balanced Way.
Everyone knows it’s good to drink lots of liquids when you’re getting sick to flush out mucus and toxins. However, when you hydrate, you also need minerals to hold onto the water. Sodium maintains water balance outside the cells, while potassium, magnesium, and calcium (all available in a good multivitamin with minerals) help to maintain water balance inside the cells. This is the reason to not drink distilled water, which leaches important minerals from the body.
Go Herbal, but Cautiously.
One formula with extensive safety and efficacy studies is Esberitox. In a clinical study in Europe, it was shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu by 50%. A blend of two potent strains of Echinacea along with two other immune-boosters, Thuja and Baptisia, Esberitox, has been recommended by pediatricians and family physicians in Europe and the U.S. for many years. It is chewable, and it tastes great.
Gargle with Black Tea and Salt.
Prescription for sore throat and inflamed tonsils: Make a regular cup of black tea and gargle, adding 1/2 tsp of salt. The tannins in the tea are astringent and effective for shrinking the swelling and reducing irritation. The salt enhances the anti-inflammatory effect.
Studies show that taking 10 grams (10,000 mg) of Vitamin C can stimulate the immune system. While that high dose is not for everyone, increasing your Vitamin C intake can be helpful to fight off illness.
Try taking a bio-available form of Vitamin C at 1000 mg 5 times a day. This dosage of 5000 mg is equal to taking 20,000 mg of regular Vitamin C. Boosting your Vitamin C intake is an effective way to support your immune system when you are sick.
Zinc lozenges also have extensive research. Three doses of zinc lozenges spread throughout the day help to form a “bandage” over the irritated area of the throat. Studies have found that Zinc can stop the progression of colds and flu and shorten the duration of infection.
Elderberry extract or syrup is also a proven treatment for viral infections. It’s been popular in Europe for years and is now available in the U.S.
Take a garlic supplement every day. When 146 volunteers received either one garlic supplement a day or a placebo for 12 weeks between November and February, those taking the garlic were not only less likely to get a cold but if they did catch one, their symptoms were less intense, and they recovered faster.
Cut Alcohol Consumption.
Heavy alcohol use suppresses the immune system in a variety of ways. Heavy drinkers are more prone to initial infections as well as secondary complications. Alcohol also dehydrates the body. It takes more fluids from your system than it puts in.
Staying Healthy and Well While Enjoying Life This Season
Getting sick can really put a damper on enjoying the magical respite of the spa during the cold winter months. But with vigilance, we can keep illness at bay while still getting our essential doses of rest and relaxation.
This season, staying healthy be proactive by boosting your defenses with nutrients, sleep, and stress relief. Use common sense when going to public places like the spa. And if symptoms arise, kindly stay home to recover.
With everyone committed to the health and consideration of others, we can continue gathering for massages, facials, and therapeutic soaks. Listen to your body, adjust if needed, and let the soothing spa sounds transport you. Emerge with immunity strengthened; outlook lifted, and skin glowing.
Here’s to a safe, healthy, and rejuvenating winter wellness season. Don’t miss out on the spa’s restorative gifts because of a few pesky germs. Follow the guidance in this article, then go – mask up, sanitize, and let the self-care begin!