Laura M. Talley

Ghostwriter, Copywriter

Write Healthy During Flu Season

It’s flu season again, and people everywhere are debating the merits of flu shots and other preventative measures. Flu isn’t the only illness writers like to avoid. I don’t know about you, but when I don’t feel well,  I don’t write well. I hate being sick and avoid it at all costs! Even though writing itself is a solitary profession that helps minimize exposure to germs, shopping trips and family members often traipse in what we could otherwise avoid. How can you stay healthy this winter? Follow these steps to stay healthy and germ free!

1. Wash hands

This goes without saying, but a surprising number of people (even health care professionals!) don’t wash their hands often enough. Keep a bottle of Germ-x around for the times when water isn’t available, and wipe down shopping carts. Don’t touch the faucet or door handles after washing in the bathroom–use a paper towel to open doors and turn off the water. Wash before eating, after going to the bathroom, or after shaking hands with people.

2. Eat well

Avoid eating too much holiday junk food. Sugar lowers our immunity and prevents us from getting the vitamins we need t At parties, consider the fruit/veggie trays over cookies and brownies. Bonus? You can avoid that holiday weight gain.

3. Exercise

It doesn’t have to be much if you hate exercising. Personally, I hate exercising in the cold. Just make sure you are moving around throughout the day, and consider a post-dinner walk with your family.

4. Consider a supplement

I take one packet of Emergen-C every day, two if I feel I am coming down with a cold. As long as I do this regularly, I don’t get sick. Bonus? I have more energy, too, due to the B vitamins found in the supplement.

Vitamin C on its own won’t do anything to help you once you’re sick. You have to take it regularly before you come down with a cold.

Keep yourself healthy to make sure you can keep up with your work and life this winter season.

Category: Healthy Writer
  • Matthew Loomis says:

    Thanks for the reminder tips, Laura! I could have used them back in August…I’m fighting my third virus since late August, and actually I’ve been struggling with cold/allergy symptoms since early October. It has not been fun and you are right, we need to take care of ourselves to stay productive. I don’t usually like to take over-the-counter meds, but honestly, Claritin-D has been a lifesaver. It keeps me going these days. Ciao for now,
    Matt

    December 13, 2012 at 11:13 am
  • Charon says:

    Vaccination! The flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective, but it really helps, and even in the case that you get the flu it reduces the severity. This is particularly important if you’re around kids or the elderly.

    Supplements, on the other hand, don’t help.

    December 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm
    • Laura says:

      Oh, duh, how could I have forgotten that? Thank you! I have read a study that said vitamin C can help if taken long-term, but taking it once you’re sick is too late. I am on my phone now, but will try to remember to look it up when I get home. Of course, I could still be wrong.

      December 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm
  • Charon says:

    Supplements are generally not helpful for anything unless you’re deficient in a specific nutrient. Usually claims are made that supplements will “boost” your immune system. But as Mark Crislip of Science-Based Medicine says, “in my world, we call the boosted immune system an inflammatory response” (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/more-boosting/ ). Or as I like to think of it, when your gas tank is full, adding more gas isn’t going to help performance, and may just help you set your car on fire :)

    Nutrient deficiencies can absolutely lead to compromised immune systems (e.g., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19056665 ). But only about 5% of Americans are deficient in vitamin C ( http://www.cdc.gov/nutritionreport/ , page 74). At least taking extra vitamin C isn’t really harmful – vitamin C tablets are fairly cheap, and as a water-soluable vitamin the excess is just urinated away. Most people don’t consume enough to even get the transient stomach upset.

    December 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm
    • Laura says:

      Interesting. I know you are in the science field. What is your take on this?
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22429343

      It’s so weird because I’ve said that and it never made sense to me that taking vitamin C could help because it’s a water soluble vitamin, but some friends of mine gave me some Emergen-C and it helped so much I’ve been taking it off and on ever since. It does help with allergies and fogginess and a few other things, but it has more than vitamin C in it so it could just be something else in it is helpful or placebo. Actually, I think a lot of it is the B vitamins in it because according to one doctor, I do not get enough vitamins B. And I do get similar results from taking just a B complex pill. So I don’t know. But I don’t know if B helps ward off colds/allergies. No idea. Pardon my rambles. It’s bedtime!

      December 20, 2012 at 8:45 pm
    • Kiki says:

      As a Meadow-land it has infinite beeinfts to the Community.Alot of care and attention has gone into this since it has been allowed access to:I love the delineated paths that lead from gate to gate, I love the fact that you can also wander and find something new (Self-seeded or not) and reminds me of my childhood fields, I love that people care about the environment they live in, and I especially love the opportunity for dogs to Poop in the bushes rather than in the streets! Long May It Live!

      March 21, 2014 at 9:33 am
  • Charon says:

    First, I’d like to say I’m not a doctor or a medical researcher. (As a scientist I do understand statistics and data analysis better than many practicing physicians, but following medical research is only a hobby of mine.)

    I didn’t go through the study you link to in detail, but it’s a marginal result. They present two small pilot studies in which they find no significant difference between taking vitamin C+zinc and placebo (“no significant difference” has a technical meaning here; basically there is a large probability that the difference seen is just from random chance rather than a real difference). When they combine the two studies, which is a questionable but not crazy thing to do, they see a marginally significant difference from placebo. (Again this is jargony. “Significant” here only means <5% chance it's due to random variation. It does not mean "large".)

    The thing is, this has been studied for decades. The 2007 Cochrane review ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17636648 ) finds no difference between groups taking vitamin C and placebo, with the possible exception of extreme athletes and cold conditions (marathoners, skiers, soldiers in Arctic exercises). Subgroup analysis like this is always very suspect, however. (Don't see an effect in the whole group? Slice and dice the group until you find some subgroup that shows an effect! Statistically, you'll find one by chance if you make enough subgroups…)

    There may be an effect from using vitamin C or zinc on colds (rhinovirus – note, this is different from influenza). If so, it is a very, very small one. At best, it might reduce the duration of a week-long cold by a few hours. Basing medical treatments on marginal results in small pilot studies is not warranted (many factors, including bias to publish positive results, mean that most initially positive medical results are overturned in the end). But minor supplementation with vitamin C is generally harmless. And it can be psychologically helpful to "do" something about a cold, for which there is no good treatment (no vaccine, no medications that really help, bleh).

    That said, please do follow advice specifically given to you by reality-based doctors! They aren't always right – they can't follow all the literature, and, as I've said, the literature itself can be contradictory and not infrequently wrong. But they're doctors, and they generally have a good handle on what's going on. And they've looked at you specifically.

    December 22, 2012 at 2:01 am
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