It’s fall, y’all! Whether you’re eerily excited for spooky season, a full-fledged fan of football festivities or just here to enjoy all things pumpkin spice, it’s a time of year associated with joy and nostalgia. Unfortunately, it also brings more than a few health concerns.
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Do you know how to take the best care of yourself and your family this time of year? From flu season and fall allergies to dry skin and Daylight Savings woes, here are a few things you need to know in order to enjoy autumn without worry.
Properly prep for flu season
In the U.S., fall is the start of flu season, and influenza can be unpredictable and serious, even if you’re healthy. Prevention is the best way to protect yourself and your family, so make sure to get your flu shot and to stay home (or keep your kids home) if you suspect signs of sickness.
“Influenza is a very serious disease, and during a normal flu season, around 40,000 or more people die from it,” says infectious disease doctor Susan Rehm, MD. “So, with any preventable disease, we should do everything we can to protect ourselves.”
Don’t forget about COVID-19
Doctors and scientists expect another surge in COVID-19 cases this fall and winter, so don’t let up on your awareness or your precautions. If you haven’t yet done so, get your COVID-19 vaccine or booster. And to make things extra easy, you can even do it at the same time (and in the same arm!) as your flu shot.
Ready your rakes
Those changing leaves make for a beautiful landscape … and a hellish lawn. Before you tackle tree debris, make sure you know how to rake leaves without hurting your back (including stretching beforehand!) with tips from chiropractor Andrew Bang, DC.
Yardwork can also strain your heart and increase your risk of heart attack, so pace yourself and learn to listen to your body. “Yard work is a workout. And like starting any new workout, you want to start slowly,” says cardiologist Nicholas Ruthmann, MD.
Fight fall allergies
As beautiful as fall can be, it can also be agonizing for the estimated 15% to 30% of Americans prone to seasonal allergies. Allergic rhinitis (a.k.a. hay fever) happens when your body’s immune system reacts to pollen in the air. But you can keep your season as sniffle-free as possible, says allergist Mark Aronica, MD, by taking steps to prevent and cope with fall allergies.
Fend off SAD
As the days get shorter, there’s less sunlight to enjoy. And less sunlight can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression triggered by the change of seasons. It typically begins in late fall — but there are strategies you can deploy to ward it off.
Light therapy, for example, can boost sleep and help fight depression.
“Especially in the winter, our bodies react to the gray, cold weather and lack of natural sunlight,” explains psychologist Adam Borland, PsyD. “What light therapy does is compensate for the lack of exposure that we get from natural sunlight.”
Don’t let Daylight Savings get you down
The mid-autumn arrival of Daylight Savings Time can bring exhaustion, grogginess and grumpiness. Help your body adjust to the time change by rejiggering your sleep schedule in advance and then sticking to a schedule, saying no to naps and avoiding caffeine until you’ve settled into the new normal.
Light it up (safely, of course)
From camping trips to roasting marshmallows, bonfires have always been a popular way to enjoy the fall season — but they can be risky, too. Pediatrician Purva Grover, MD, explains how you can ensure that your whole family, especially kids and teens, knows how to practice proper bonfire safety in order to avoid burn injuries and smoke inhalation.
Get the humidifier going
Cold air is dry because it holds less moisture than warm air, and breathing cold, dry air can cause respiratory ailments like asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and nosebleeds. “When the air is dry, your respiratory system just isn’t happy,” says pulmonologist Kathrin Nicolacakis, MD. “Even if you have no medical problems at all, you can suffer.”
She explains how a humidifier can help improve your breathing, reduce lung problems and just generally make your coexistence with cold weather all the more comfortable.
Keep your skin soft
Dry air also means dry skin and hair. Before truly frigid temps set it, follow advice from dermatologist Alejandra Estemalik, MD and start showing your skin some extra love by choosing a good moisturizer (and using it regularly!). Take care of your hair, too, by brushing it gently, avoiding tight styles and keeping it conditioned to combat the cold.