Has everyone in your family gotten their flu shots this year?
Winter is traditionally the season for coughing, sniffling, and sore throats—which frequently don’t need the help of actual germs to show up in cold, dry weather. Ironically, literal illness may be more of a risk in mild winters: frequent changes in weather and temperature mean frequent “adjustment stress” on the body, which weakens resistance to illness; and people are less likely to stay home when the weather is only a “little” cold, meaning more contact with more people in closer quarters, meaning germs have more opportunity to spread.
Whether this winter proves severe or mild (and whether your personal definitions of “severe” and “mild” were learned in Houston or in Calgary), take precautions to keep your family healthy:
If you go out in one heavy coat that feels “just right” on your porch, walking a few blocks may work up a sweat that turns into a dampness-generated chill. With two or three layers of lighter clothing, you can put on or take off a jacket as needed. When buying children’s winter wraps, choose options that can easily be rolled up and stuffed into a backpack—and let the kids know the coat will be warmer, when put back on, if first shaken out to absorb heat-trapping air.
Be careful of letting everyone stay home because “it’s too cold to go out”; everyone may wind up gaining unhealthy weight (and lowering their disease resistance) from inactivity and boredom. You can still get in a good brisk walk on cold days if you bundle up properly. Or do something active inside your own home: put on aerobic music for a family dance party, play Simon Says with jumping and stretching exercises.
Consuming more calories in cold weather is a legitimate need. The trouble comes when the bulk of those calories are empty ones: white-flour pastries, sugar candies, apple cider without apple juice. Even among animals, bears that fatten up for the winter on natural foods are stronger and healthier come spring than bears that gain the same amount of weight from processed foods discarded by humans.
Feed your family hearty winter meals rich in proteins and nutritious starches:
A healthy attitude makes for a healthy body, so please don’t grumble about gray winter days or moan that you “just know” someone will get sick.
Appreciate the beauty of glistening frost, dinner-hour sunsets, and bright stars on a cold night. Enjoy the coziness of sleeping under warm covers or sipping a hot drink. Take time to savor the holidays rather than dashing from store to store and event to event. If your mantra is “winter is wonderful,” everyone’s health will reap the benefits.