How to stay healthy & eliminate costly doctor visits this season

Editor’s Note: This is the third and final article in a series on living a healthy lifestyle on a budget, brought to you by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation.



By: David Kraybill, Executive Director, Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation

No one likes to be sick. Besides the obvious feeling miserable, you miss work and cannot accomplish the things you need to for yourself and your family. On top of that, you have to spend money to go to the doctor, get a prescription filled or buy over-the-counter remedies. But, this time of year it’s inevitable, right? So, you sit back and wait for that first sign of a body ache or scratchy throat.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 5 people will get the flu this season. However, there is good news. That “1” doesn’t have to be you. You can take preventative action on a daily basis to reduce your and your family’s chances of getting sick and spending extra dollars on doctor office visits and trips to the drug store.

Top 10 Tips to Prevent Getting Sick

1. Wash your hands—you get sick for one reason—germs. Bacteria and viruses make you ill by finding a way into your body through physical contact. Since most contact is with your hands (think of everything you touch in just a few hours), washing them frequently can stop germs from entering your body. Never eat without washing your hands and wash them after riding public transportation. While antibacterial gels are effective and good when hand-washing isn’t practical or possible, washing with soap and water is the preferred option.

2. Don’t touch your face – even if you keep your hands clean. Chances are, some germs will survive and they can act only if they get inside you. The mucous membranes in your eyes, mouth and nose are ideal entry points. Simply keep your hands away from your face and food and make it difficult for germs to grow.

3. Avoid sick people – seems obvious, but yet you still do not always do it. Germs are everywhere, but they are definitely hanging out around someone already infected. Politely stay away and disinfect everything they touch. If possible, avoid those who work with little children, like teachers and pediatricians—unfortunately, they are usually contagious.

4. Don’t eat group food. Avoid party dips where there is no spoon to put some on your plate. (Think about someone sick sneezing into their hand, picking up a chip and rotating it in the dip or salsa to find the best dipping angle and swishing all those sneeze germs in the food.) Also, don’t eat out of a bag or bowl of anything that isn’t individually wrapped or equipped with tongs to choose your piece of food. Along these lines, avoid shared mugs, cups or utensils unless they’ve been washed in a dishwasher or with very hot water and a clean sponge.

5. Get enough sleep. According to Dr. Rubin Naiman, a sleep specialist and assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine, “Sleeping well is the single most overlooked factor critical to good health, especially during flu season.” Sleep restores and heals the body; without it, your immune system cannot function properly. In addition, if you feel like you may be starting a cold, get some extra sleep to help your body fight it.

6. Don’t drink alcohol in excess, smoke or use other tobacco products. Drinking large amounts of alcohol negatively affects your immune system and makes it weaker for a full 24 hours. If you feel like you’re coming down with something, avoid drinking altogether for a few days. Smoking weakens the immune system by depressing antibodies and cells that are in the body to protect against foreign invaders.

7. Relieve stress. Being too uptight or constantly stressed out makes you vulnerable to viruses. It can also make your recovery time longer if you do get sick. Find ways to relax and chill out, and give your mind and body a chance to unwind.

8. Exercise at least three days per week. Aerobic exercise will build muscle and endurance and keep you strong as you age. Choose walking or any other exercise you can stick to. If you are feeling sick, it is best to skip a workout. Also, if you go to a gym – make sure you clean your equipment before and after use and wash your hands when you are finished working out.

9. Eat well and stay hydrated – seems simple, but eating a diet full of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, lean meats and whole grains can boost your body’s immune system and help it stave off invasive germs. Staying hydrated also helps your body stay balanced and strong and helps it support all your body’s functions. Ideal drinks include water and warm tea. Skip the soda—regular and diet—it adds calories and makes your body crave sweets.

10. Take a multi-vitamin. While eating healthy is the ideal way to get all your nutrients, sometimes we don’t. Taking a multi-vitamin can help fill in the gaps and add fuel to your body’s immune system.

Be Aware of the Top 8 Germy Public Places

1. Grocery Store – Shopping cart handles and seat buckets are the biggest culprits. They can be full of germs from others’ hands and leaky packages of meat. Wipe them down with the antibacterial wipes most grocery stores provide.

2. Children’s Playgrounds – Swings, jungle gyms, and all other equipment can be loaded with germs. The largest threat is from fecal bacteria from bird droppings and diaper-wearing kids. Always wash your and your child’s hands when returning home from the playground.

3. Public Restrooms – Believe it or not, it’s not the toilet, but the sinks—the taps and faucets and soap dispensers—they are all touched after using the toilet. Avoid touching moist surfaces that breed bacteria, and turn off all faucets and open all doors with a paper towel.

4. Offices – Desks, telephones and computer keyboards are the biggest offenders. Wipe down your desk with antibacterial wipes daily, and avoid these items on co-workers’ desks if they are sick.

5. Restaurants – Beware of the table surface and high chairs. Most restaurants wipe down the tables and high chairs with cloths that are used over and over and lack disinfectant. High chairs also harbor fecal bacteria, too, because they hold diaper wearing tots. Carry sanitary wipes and do your own wipe-down after you sit down.

6. Libraries – You can catch more than knowledge at your local library from the many surfaces that are touched. After handling books and touching countertops, use hand sanitizer to wash your hands.

7. Cruise Ships – These ships are floating cities, and the main cause of getting sick are noroviruses—almost impossible to avoid on a cruise ship and resistant to routine cleaning procedures. All public surfaces are breeding grounds. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially before eating.

8. Malls – Escalator handles are teeming with germs so try to avoid them. The sheer volume of people who touch the handles make them a bacterial hot spot. If you do, don’t touch your face and wash your hands or use antibacterial wash as soon as you can.

It can seem like too much to remember or an impossible feat to stay healthy. But, with a little extra effort and change of habits, you can significantly reduce your risk of getting sick—not only this winter, but year round.

 About the Foundation – The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation’s mission is to enhance the health and wellness of area residents, providing education, funding and programs that motivate people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Visit for more information about the Foundation. Discover Pottstown area’s online community at to learn and share information on how to lead a healthier life!

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