Do Not panic. Keep your immune system functioning efficiently by following these tips.
It seems that the world and the country are in a panic over the Coronavirus. Whether the reaction is valid or not has yet to be determined. It seems that every couple of years a new strain of virus wreaks havoc on our daily lives. Whether it be SARS, the Coronavirus or the flu, these illnesses have a low mortality rate and can be mild in some cases for those that do not have compromised immune systems.
There are precautions that we can all take to make sure these viruses are not passed from person to person but as firefighters, EMTs and medics our exposure is almost inevitable due to our job requirements.
So, with over 200 mutating cold-causing viruses floating around along with the Coronavirus, what is a first responder to do to avoid getting sick?
While in our profession it can be hard to dodge every germ, there are proactive ways to boost your immune system and help prevent catching a cold or the flu. Here are the best ways:
1. Wash, Rinse, and Repeat. One of the most effective ways to prevent colds and the flu is simply washing your hands properly and frequently. Wash your hands and encourage those around you to do the same. Most cold viruses are spread through direct contact. Shaking hands and touching doorknobs, keyboards, and telephones are all easy ways to catch germs. Wash hands as often as possible, scrubbing with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. Keep hand sanitizer available for when hand washing is not possible. It's common sense not to shake hands or get near a sick person but we as EMTs, Paramedics and Firefighters have no choice. We all know that we will inevitably be in contact with ill people at some time throughout our shift. To reduce exposures and spreading germs it’s also imperative to properly wipe down equipment and rigs often. Don’t be afraid to thoroughly wipe down the firehouse as well. Wipe down germy areas — light switches, doorknobs, the phone, computer keyboard, and your TV remote — with your favorite cleaning product. Minimizing exposure to germs can help prevent colds and the flu.
2. Drink Plenty of Fluids. General good health practices keep your body strong and ready to fend off cold germs and the flu virus and this especially includes drinking plenty of water. In fact, one recent study found that staying hydrated may boost an immune response to enable your body to better fight the viruses. Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of fluids, especially water, and by avoiding caffeinated drinks. Shoot for eight glasses of water per day, more if you consume caffeinated beverages or have a strenuous shift or call.
3. Exercise to Strengthen Your Immunity. Exercise not only makes you perform your job better as a fire rescue athlete, but it also boosts your immune system. Additionally, warding off extra weight is important for overall health, particularly when it comes to preventing colds and flu. A recent study found that overweight and obese people were more likely to fall ill or be injured. Not only does exercise improve the circulation of white blood cells throughout your body, but it has been shown to increase the production of natural killer T cells, which are essential for maintaining an optimum immune response. The amount of exercise required to obtain an immune boost is relatively low, 20 minutes of brisk walking 4-5 times per week has been shown to significantly improve the body’s immune response.
4. Put Down the Sugar. When it comes to fighting cold and flu, it is essential to decrease your amount of sugar intake. Sugar has devastating effects on the immune system, and the fact that Americans consume an average of 2-3 pounds of sugar per person every year spells bad news come cold and flu season. Not only does sugar increase the production of hormones that suppress the immune system, refined sugar needs micro-nutrients to be metabolized. This requires your body to use stored vitamins and minerals, further harming your defenses. Instead of eating high sugar foods try eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (see number 5 below).
5. Eat Your Fruits and Veggies! And Protein too… Though it doesn’t boil down to just one or two foods, the nutrients and other compounds found in your daily diet have an impact on how weak or strong your immunity is. But, make sure you obey your Mother and eat your fruits & vegetables every day. Vitamin C in foods like strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, and citrus, helps immune system cells function efficiently. Vitamin A helps keep tissues in the mouth, intestines, and respiratory tract healthy and is found in sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, and cantaloupe. Remember that eating the actual fruit or veggie is better than popping single-vitamin supplements since it’s likely that all the components in the food interact to offer protection. And, make sure you get plenty of protein. Eating too little protein can weaken your immune system. Protein-rich foods supply the amino acids you need to build essential proteins in the body, including antibodies. Animal foods like beef and pork also contain zinc, a mineral that your body uses to make t-cells.
6. Get Your Rest and Sleep. This can be difficult for the fire rescue athlete especially when the tones go off numerous times throughout the night. It is important to get as much sleep as possible especially on those days away from the firehouse. Studies have found that getting enough sleep is essential for healthy immune function and that insufficient sleep or poor sleep quality is associated with lowered immune function. Ultimately you want to get at least 7 to 8 hours each night. There is hope for those of us that can’t sleep through the night, recent research shows that napping can boost health and the immune system.
For a bonus, add chicken soup, Mom and a good laugh. I know that these things aren't backed with research, but chicken soup warms the spirit, TLC from Mom is always helpful and laughing can’t hurt (see the quote below).
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book.”
Follow these tips to boost your immune system and to help you stay fit for duty. Stay consistent and make sure to take care of yourself so you can take care of them…
Stay safe and healthy!
Aaron “Zam” Zamzow
Fire Rescue Fitness is dedicated to getting firefighters, EMTs and medics “fit for duty.” Each one of the FRF workouts include everything you need to get you stronger, leaner and moving better on the fire ground. Take a look (click here) at the results thousands of Fire Rescue Athletes are getting with the FRF (all programs now include the FRF app).... Click here to choose your FRF Program
Here are other results and feedback about FRF programs…
*THE RESULTS SHOWN ARE BASED ON ACTIVE AND STRICT PARTICIPATION IN OUR PROGRAM. RESULTS MAY VARY BASED ON INDIVIDUAL USER AND ARE NOT GUARANTEED.*
“Hey Aaron. Just wanted to say thanks for the easy to follow workout program and eating guidelines. Today is day 28 of the program for me and I am happy to report I had great success. Total weight loss for me in the 28 days was 10.5#, I lost 1 1/2 inches off my waist, 5 inches off my belly. What a nice feeling it is to have loose fitting pants again. Thanks again and I will let you know the results when the program is finished. Thanks Again and Take Care.”
“So far, I LOVE IT! Lost 8 pounds in the first month and my core is stronger than ever. I feel more flexible and move faster. The interval overhauls are a great idea and an easy way to incorporate “real” fire ground movements. Looking forward to the next 6 weeks…..”
“Hey Aaron, I just have to send you a message to thank you for the workout program. As of today I have lost 22 lbs., my body has definitely changed and become more defined and my turnouts are fitting me better. The Eating Guidelines were a huge help and the cardio intervals kicked my butt in-shape. I have a lot more energy! I don’t feel rundown and tired after long calls now. Thank You!”
“Hey Aaron, Thank God for your program. I’ve only been on it for just over a couple of weeks and I’m already seeing results. I’m fitting into pants that I couldn’t get into a couple of weeks ago. I really notice a difference on calls now, I’m able to climb in my gear and don’t fatigue like I used to. I’m moving better, stronger and definitely leaner!”