November came and the weather dropped. The past 2 years in a row I’ve gotten sick at the end of November, so I’m doing my best to try to beat the viruses this year. I’m sure you’ve been getting lots of information about flu prevention (we’re talking any kind of flu here, not just the dreaded H1N1), but some of it may have been in Japanese. With exams, the English Drama Festival, and the Mid-Year Conference coming up, there’s no time like the present for some basic health reminders:
Remember, viruses can only enter through your nostrils and mouth, so those are the areas you’ve got to monitor.
– Wash your hands frequently. I also recently found some hand sanitizer gel at The Daiso (100 yen shop), so you can keep a bottle in your desk or car or purse (or all of the above!) and they will last quite a while.
– Keep your hands away from your face. Obviously you’ve got to eat, but try not to rest your chin on your hands when you’re bored. This keeps your potentially virus-infested hands away from the main ways into your body! Your skin will thank you, too.
– Gargle twice a day (the Japanese advocate 3 times) with warm salt water. It’s cheap and everyone can make it. Use a mouthwash if that makes you feel better protected. The reason gargling works is because viruses can thrive in your throat. You want to get them out of there!
– Clean your nostrils once a day. Yeah, I hadn’t heard of this, but it makes sense. Viruses can enter through your mouth (thus we gargle). They can enter through your nose, too. Dip a cotton swab in some warm salt water and swab out those nostrils for a squeaky clean feeling.
– Get vitamin C (from citrus …or C.C. Lemon) and zinc (which helps absorb the vitamin C) to keep your immune system strong. Natural sources of zinc include shellfish, nuts, wholegrains, cheese, wheatgerm, tofu, and figs.
– Drink lots of warm liquids, such as this fabulous homemade ginger tea! This is similar to gargling, but in the reverse direction. Instead of getting the virus off of your throat and spitting it out, you’re swallowing the virus and putting it in your stomach, where it can’t survive. It becomes harmless in there. Have you heard a better reason to go to Starbucks yet?
Also, I found this article about face masks form the LA Times, which is worth a read if you’re curious how effective all those face masks are.
Remember, many foreigners in Japan work at schools (and thus are around crowds), so exposure to the flu is virtually guaranteed. What matters most is that you keep the flu from setting up camp in your body. Keep those fluids working all winter, and don’t underestimate the importance of gargling.
Have some other tips? Weigh in in the comments!