From MedZed Expert Dr. Timothy Horton, MD, FAAP

By Dr. Timothy Horton, MD

Special for the AJT

Dr. Tim Horton

Many of my patients tend to ask me this time of year how they can keep from catching the flu this winter. Although I didn’t learn special secrets in medical school or from my Canadian great grandmother, I do have a few thoughts based on my experience that seem to reduce the chance of bringing home the dreaded flu and many of its less harmful cousin viruses.

  1. First and foremost, get enough rest.  Your immune system is very closely tied to your ability to sleep well. I recommend starting out with at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep, try reading, taking a warm bath, making a cup of hot decaffeinated tea, practicing yoga or meditating. Adjusting your schedule to accommodate for at least eight hours of sleep will contribute to a stronger immune system during flu season!
  1. Eat well.  The saying “you are what you eat,” is unfortunately true, and your ability to fight colds is often affected by your diet.  Having three square meals of healthy food each day is critical. Taking vitamins is an effective way to help prevent illness, but vitamins are much easier and more safely taken in the food we eat.  A good general rule is to make sure there are at least three colors of fruits and vegetables on your plate every meal.
  1. Wash your hands frequently and properly.  Truly, this is probably the most effective weapon against winter colds, influenza included. Washing your hands frequently reduces the amount of viruses that can potentially be exposed to your body. Another related secret is to change your clothes frequently, especially after being in high-risk areas such as schools or out holiday shopping.
  1. Finally, get your flu shot! It is surprising how many people still don’t do this. The influenza shot will protect you from four types, or strains, of influenza. Rarely, a fifth strain will appear and cause people to still get sick, but this happens only every 10 to 15 years.

Influenza is an illness that can be life threatening for people younger than two or older than 55 years old.  Taking care of yourself with these simple steps will keep you and others around you healthy during flu season!

Dr. Timothy Horton, M.D. Attended Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. In line with his lifelong love of working with children, he chose a residency in Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles in Hollywood, Calif. Before finding his way to Georgia in 2010, he worked for Kaiser Permanente in Riverside and Temecula, Calif., as a general pediatrician for 12 years. He currently works with MedZed, an Atlanta based Telemedicine service offering in home pediatric care.  He has three boys of his own.

For more information about MedZed and their Telemedicine services, visit mymedzed.com/