It’s that time of year again: cold and flu season. While we battle the snow and ice outside, our immune systems have to fight off winter colds and flus with whatever resources they can muster. That’s a tough job, but you can boost your immune system with better oral hygiene. Overall health is related to oral health – we know that already. That’s why brushing and flossing and keeping the bacteria in your mouth from getting out of control are so important. How else can you shore up your oral hygiene and avoid colds and flus? Here are some tips.
Drink more water. In the winter we are already more dehydrated because the furnaces in our houses and workplaces are going all the time. We forget to drink, but your body needs that water! In your mouth, the saliva you produce flushes away food particles and bacteria and balances out the pH. If you are dehydrated, you will produce less saliva, so drink your 8 glasses a day – of water, not pop or other sugary drinks!
Eat better. If your diet is not healthy and you’re not getting enough nourishing foods, you will be more likely to get sick. GIGO – or “garbage in, garbage out” applies here. Avoid junk foods and sugary sweets. They will drag your health down. As far as good food goes, soups and bone broths can be very good for fighting colds and flus. They are already partially broken down by boiling, so it’s easier for you to digest and absorb those nutrients. If you do not like chicken soup, check out this list of soothing soups for cold and flu season.
Get your rest. Most people don’t realize it, but the body only creates new cells and regenerates itself when it’s in the REM sleep cycle. Everyone needs to get more sleep if they want to heal the from the stress and damage caused during waking hours and remain in good health.
Rinse with mouthwash. Brushing and flossing are key, but mouthwash is a great bacteria killer and will do by itself in a pinch.
Wash your hands and keep them away from your mouth. This is common sense, but everything you touch has germs on it. During cold and flu season, it’s much more likely that you’ll touch something that is germified. We unconsciously touch our faces and our mouths all the time even when we don’t eat, so wash your hands. Then wash them again. You should be washing them with soap for at least as long as it takes you to sing the “Happy Birthday” song. The CDC lists the following as times you should be washing your hands:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
Throw away your old toothbrush. This is another obvious one, but we so often forget to replace our toothbrushes. If bacteria is in your mouth, it’s on your toothbrush. If cold germs are in your mouth, they are on your toothbrush – which is probably next to the toothbrush of someone else in your family who is also likely to be exposed to whatever is being passed around in schools, workplaces, or other public spaces. It’s also smart to get rid of your toothbrush after you’ve gotten sick. You don’t want to give your germs to your loved ones, and you don’t want to get reinfected with that same cold.
It’s a challenge not getting sick this time of year, and eventually most people do feel at least a little run down even if they don’t come down with winter colds and flus. But by following the above tips, if you do get sick, you’ll mend quicker and you won’t suffer as much. We take in so many germs through our mouths, so improving our oral hygiene helps a lot to safeguard us from the germs out there that attempt to take us down.
Take care of yourselves and stay healthy this winter!