Prevent the spread of colds and flu by getting outdoors to play

During the winter, we almost always see an increase in cases of colds and the flu. Why is this? Some doctors believe the flu virus spreads more easily in cold, dry air. Most doctors also agree that when we stay cramped inside together, we are more likely to spread germs, helping them spread and travel through touch. One way to help prevent the spread of the flu is washing hands well–20 seconds, running water and soap. Another tool for prevention is simply to get outside.

It’s a myth that you can catch a cold from being out in the cold air for too long. Instead, it may in fact be staying inside during cold weather that spreads the flu and colds. So to prevent sickness this winter, bundle up and get outside. There are probably fewer germs outdoors and you will get needed exercise to support your immune system. (Need more flu advice? Talk to your doctor.)

It’s also important to dress appropriately when the temperature drops. Especially at or below freezing, it is best to wear a wool or polyester (never cotton) underlayer, a breathable mid-layer and a water-resistant top layer. Additionally, cover up your extremities with wool socks, airtight boots, a hat that covers the ears and gloves.

Frostbite is a very important concern, as it not reversible. Be sure to cover your skin — especially hands, feet, ears, even nose — in extreme weather. It is also best to remain dry. Before going outside, check the wind chill temperature. If it is at or below -18 degrees F, limit time outdoors to intervals fewer than 30 minutes. If the wind chill is at or below -30, be brief with outdoor time–fewer than 10 minutes. See the National Weather Service Windchill chart for more information.

So get outside this winter and encourage your school to send kids out for recess (even if just for a few minutes). Need inspiration for outdoor winter recess? Check out Recess at 20 Below, a book about recess at one Alaskan school.


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