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Published December 24, 2008, 12:00 AM

Take steps to stay healthy this winter

During the winter, we stay indoors more often. Germs get passed from person to person, and most people catch at least one cold per year. School-age children in the United States miss 189 million school days because of colds, and parents miss 126 million work days caring for them, according to a University of Michigan study. That adds up to billions of dollars in lost work and medical care.

By: Luella Morehouse, The Jamestown Sun

During the winter, we stay indoors more often. Germs get passed from person to person, and most people catch at least one cold per year.

School-age children in the United States miss 189 million school days because of colds, and parents miss 126 million work days caring for them, according to a University of Michigan study. That adds up to billions of dollars in lost work and medical care.

Regular hand washing and good nutrition can help protect you, your family and friends from getting sick.

Enjoy a Variety of Foods

Stock up on healthy foods to fuel your body against colds and flu. Fruits and vegetables are high in moisture and contain many protective nutrients, such as vitamins C and A. Protect the nutrients in your fruits and vegetables with these tips:

Wash fruits and vegetables carefully. If necessary, peel them thinly. Many of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables are close to the skin.

Cut fresh vegetables in larger pieces. The smaller the pieces, the more nutrients that are lost during cooking.

Use as little water as possible during cooking. Consider steaming or micro-waving vegetables instead of boiling in large amounts of water.

Keep cooked and cut-up fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator.

Stay Hydrated

The human body doesn’t store water as it does other nutrients. Maintaining enough moisture in our bodies is a nutritional concern during the winter.

We are exposed to extremes in temperatures from outdoors to indoors. We bundle up to stay warm while shoveling snow, skating or sledding, so we perspire and lose more water. Buildings may have low humidity levels.

Stay hydrated with these tips:

* Carry a water bottle or pause for a drink when you pass a drinking fountain.

* Have a beverage with all meals and snacks.

* Start meals with soup.

Wash Your Hands Often

Hand washing is the most important way to help prevent illness. When children and adults wash their hands properly, they miss fewer days of school and work.

Wet your hands, add some soap and lather up for at least 20 seconds. Watch the clock as you sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself two times.

Can you use an alcohol hand sanitizer?

Washing your hands with plain old soap and water is the best option. If you don’t have a sink nearby to wash your hands, sanitizers are okay. Be sure the sanitizer contains at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective. The downside of alcohol: it can be drying and lead to cracks in your skin where germs can hide!

For more information on this topic, contact Luella Morehouse, FNP education assistant, NDSU Extension Service Stutsman County, 116 1/2 First St. E., Jamestown, ND. Morehouse may be reached at 252-9030 or luella.morehouse@ndsu. edu.

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