Your immune system helps protect you from bacteria and other germs. The state of immune health varies from person to person. Genetics, lifestyle, and diet play a role in your personal immune health. Good habits, such as not smoking, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep are only part of the immune system puzzle. No matter your age or health status, there are many healthy habits and ways you can be proactive to make a difference in your immune health.
Practice good hygiene habits
Personal hygiene helps minimize your exposure to germs and helps you avoid spreading germs to others.
The first step you can take is washing your hands frequently. But do you know how to properly wash your hands? Many people believe that just running them under the water quickly will do, but here is the proper method according to the Centers for Disease Control:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Rub your hands together with soap, lathering the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and even under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. The CDC recommends singing “Happy Birthday” as a timer.
- Rinse your hands
- Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry them
Wash your hands after using the restroom; before, during, and after preparing food; after changing diapers, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose; after handling animal waste, and more. The CDC also recommends using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available, noting that hand sanitizer does not kill all germs.
Other good hygiene habits to practice include:
- Always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough; coughing into your elbow is recommended.
- Wash and bandage all cuts and bites (both human and animal).
- Do not pick at wounds, cuts, or blemishes as they heal.
Prepare food safely
Preparing and storing food safely is essential to keeping out bacteria and germs. You should always wash your hands before and after handling food, especially raw foods. All fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before cooking or serving them. In addition, meat, poultry, and fish should be rinsed under running water before cooking them.
Switching up utensils and cutting boards is also a must. Never use the same cutting board or utensil when chopping raw meats. You can take an extra step in food preparation by wiping down boxed goods that come into your home.
Wipe off surfaces
Any surface contains an unknown number of bacteria and germs, although some surfaces are more prone to others. Items that you handle often should be disinfected regularly, including:
- Car keys
- Mobile phone
- Steering wheel
- Purse handles and bottoms
- Gym bag handles and bottoms
- All door handles, including in your home, office, and car
- Gym equipment
- Assistive tools, such as crutches or wheelchairs
- Kitchen counters
- Tables and catch-alls
- Bathroom counters
How often do you wipe off some of these surfaces? It might be time to start!
Take your shoes off
Take your shoes off in the house to avoid the spread of germs. It also helps to wipe off the soles of your shoes before bringing them into the house, especially if you have been visiting places with a lot of traffic, like the hospital or a long-term care facility. If you need to wear shoes indoors, have a pair designated only for the house or wear slippers.
Exercising plays a significant role in boosting immune health.
According to the Harvard Medical School, exercise may contribute by, “promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.”
Furthermore, research continues to be done on elite athletes, exploring the deeper relationship between immune health and exercise.