Now more than ever, immunity is a topic of daily conversation and is always on our minds. Millions of Americans are eagerly awaiting their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in hopes of throwing their masks away and returning to their regular routines. Although a vaccine is a significant contributor to conquering COVID-19, don’t throw away your masks just yet. The vaccine will take time to become effective, and it requires two doses. Everyone, even individuals who receive the vaccination, will need to continue to wear a mask. It is essential to continue to follow the experts’ recommendations so that you stay protected against COVID-19. This blog reviews the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations for staying well.
1. Wear a Mask
Continue to wear a mask when you are around anyone who does not live in your house. Wear a mask anytime you are indoors with others and when you are outdoors and cannot stay at least six feet apart. Wearing a mask helps protect you and those around you.
Be sure to wear your mask correctly. It should fit snugly against the sides of your face and under your chin. It should completely cover your nose and mouth. Wearing a mask that does not fully cover your nose and mouth is the same as wearing no mask at all.
Wash your hands just before putting on your mask and immediately after taking your mask off. Take care when taking off your mask and touch it only on the ear loops or ties. Store it safely to keep it clean between each use. Wash your cloth mask often, and hang it to dry.
2. Keep Your Distance
Avoid crowds and indoor gatherings. If you must be inside with people that do not live in your house, always keep your mask on and stay at least 6 feet (about two arm lengths) away. The more people you interact with, the closer you are to them, and the longer the interaction, the higher your risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
3. Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands often with soap and water. Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting sick. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds each time – or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. If you are getting tired of singing that song, check out this list of other songs you can sing while washing your hands. If you cannot wash your hands, the next best option is using a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Cover your hands with the sanitizer and rub them together until they feel dry.
4. Get a Flu Shot
Getting your flu shot is even more critical this cold and flu season. It will not protect you from COVID-19, but it will reduce your risk of getting the flu. You may not think it is important to get a flu shot when everyone’s social distancing, but unfortunately, not everyone is social distancing. There is still a risk of getting the flu. The flu is most dangerous for older adults and young children. By being vaccinated, you are not just protecting yourself, but you are also protecting other people you may encounter, including those who cannot get the vaccine. Also, every fall and winter, hospitals see an increase in patients because of the flu, and there is concern hospitals will become even more overwhelmed with both COVID-19 and flu patients.
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations for Immune Health
In addition to these basic health safety guidelines, many lifestyle habits can keep your immune system functioning at its best. Getting enough sleep, staying physically active, and managing stress are all great ways to keep your immune system strong.
Healthy eating continues to be necessary, as well. Fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy sources of protein and fat. Many vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamin C, which plays a vital role in supporting immune health. You may think of oranges when you think of vitamin C, but red and green peppers and kiwifruit are also rich sources of vitamin C. Broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, and even tomatoes also have vitamin C. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Five servings (approximately 2½ cups) of various fruits and vegetables should provide about 150 to 200 mg of vitamin C.
Ensuring your diet also includes some protein-rich foods can provide a healthy daily dose of zinc, another critical nutrient for immune health. Oysters are the richest source of zinc, but if you are not crazy about oysters, poultry foods like chicken and turkey are also excellent zinc sources.. Other good zinc sources include baked beans, chickpeas, nuts (such as cashews and almonds), and fortified breakfast cereals.
Also, proper hydration is essential for optimal immune health, as fluid functions in every system in your body. Many of us are out of our everyday routines during this COVID-19 pandemic, but it is crucial to remember to keep hydrated. No one set amount of fluid is right for everyone, as we are all different. The Institute of Medicine does offer general recommendations for healthy adults, which is 91 fluid ounces for women (11-12 cups per day) and 125 fluid ounces for men (15-16 cups per day). Drinking 11-16 cups per day may sound like a lot, but these amounts include fluid from all beverages (water, juice, milk, soda, coffee, tea) and the water naturally occurring in our foods.
Know Your Risk
It is also critical to know your level of risk for COVID-19 based on your health history and other factors. Adults with certain medical conditions are considered at higher risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. Check back often as the CDC’s list continues to be updated.
Although anyone can get COVID-19, the older you get, the higher your risk is for severe illness. Older adults are at a higher risk of requiring hospitalization from COVID-19. Eight out of ten deaths reported in the U.S. from COVID-19 have been in adults over age 65.
We know there is no magic bullet or guarantee to stay well. That makes it even more critical to practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, eat healthfully, and try to live your healthiest life. Knowing your own level of risk, along with these daily practices, will help us get through this together.
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout varies by state. Learn more about when you are eligible to receive the vaccine.
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