FLINT, Michigan — Although the winter months in Michigan are usually filled with festive events, great food, and warm memories, they can also be filled with opportunities for people to get sick, unintentionally spread germs, or get hurt without the proper precautions. Fortunately, the team at Hamilton Community Health Network (CHN) spoke with Flintside to give six vital tips to use this winter to stay well and safe.
1. Wash hands often, especially when you are out holiday shopping
In lieu of both the coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) being at their peak during the colder months, Hamilton recommends residents frequently wash their hands to rid the body of any bacteria that could have transferred from frequently touched surfaces. This tip is especially vital when out holiday shopping. “If you are not able to get to a sink, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer until you can,” says Stacy Sawyer, Director of Communications and Marketing at CHN.
2. Be careful when shoveling snow
Snow shoveling can put many people at risk of a heart attack. Follow these tips from the National Safety Council. According to Sawyer, “every year, many people are hospitalized for chest pain and cardiac events after shoveling snow. It is easy to over-extend yourself when shoveling which can lead to heart problems and even death.”
3. Be aware of carbon monoxide risk when heating your home
According to the CHN team, every year, at least 430 people die, and 50,000 visit the emergency room for accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. This is because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, making it especially dangerous. To prevent this, CHN doctors suggest Flint residents always have a working carbon monoxide monitor in their homes. “And never use an oven, portable stove, grill, or another alternative heat source to heat your home. If using a generator, make sure it is properly vented,” advises Sawyer.
4. Get your seasonal flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine or booster if you haven’t already
CHN shares that the ideal time to get your flu shot is in the fall but getting one now closer to the holidays will still provide protection through flu season early next year. “Plus, if you’re 64 or older, a specialty flu vaccine or ‘high dose’ vaccine is available and offers extra protection for older people,” says Sawyer. It is especially important for elderly and immunocompromised people to be vaccinated. Anyone due for the flu or COVID-19 vaccine or booster is encouraged to call Hamilton at (810) 406-4246 to schedule their vaccine(s).
5. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine
Though exercising and keeping a balanced diet may seem difficult during the holiday season, it's important to remain consistent even during the winter months. CHN practitioners recommend gym alternatives when looking for exercises at home with YouTube videos, many of which don’t even require equipment. “And remember to continue eating a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, protein, and fiber even when tempted with delicious comfort foods and holiday treats,” shares Sawyer.
6. When in doubt, take precautions
It is always better to be safe than to get someone ill. CHN suggests that if someone in your family is feeling sick, try to avoid being in contact with them until they are feeling better. This may be hard to manage during the holidays, with so many families getting together. However, Sawyer shares that “anyone who has any underlying conditions [or is immunocompromised] should revert to the precautions we practiced a year or so ago. Wear a mask, avoid crowds, and be sure your COVID-19 boosters are up to date, and you have gotten your flu shot this year.”
“Also, when your extended family and friends visit, open your windows to create airflow. Turn on a fan just to help keep air circulating. Don’t kiss the babies! With RSV and flu and COVID being rampant, hold back on those kisses with young ones. A cough or cold for an adult can mean something more serious for a young one, such as RSV,” Sawyer continued.
In addition to the tips above, Hamilton Community Health Network recommends Flint residents visit hamiltonchn.org for additional wellness resources and to set up medical, dental, and vision appointments for 2023.