Winter colds and flu can kick up coughs — the body’s natural response to expelling mucus and other nasties. And while most of your hacking will subside within a couple weeks, chronic symptoms can persist longer… and may be a sign of a lingering infection or other medical condition like asthma, allergies, acid reflux, and even lung cancer. How do you know if that throat–clearing is a worrisome sign or something benign?
Seek medical attention if:
The cough lasts longer than 3–8 weeks, depending on severity
Your cough is accompanied by a fever higher than 100° for 3 days or longer
You cough up a bloody substance
Your mucus is discolored
Your cough leaves you wheezing or short of breath.
In the meantime, temper that tickle with these tips:
Try honey and lemon juice before you go to bed to ease the dry spasm (one study of children found that buckwheat honey was just as effective as dedextromethorphan, one of the active ingredients in most over-the-counter cough medicines)
Prop up your pillows to reduce irritation
Drink plenty of water to help thin out mucus in a productive cough
Sit in a bathroom with hot water running to open up airways
Suck on a peppermint candy or lozenge to moisten the throat
We go to great lengths to avoid sickness. But research suggests that germ exposure promotes a more robust immune system, perhaps even priming your body to battle more serious diseases.
Feeling under the weather? Instead of reaching for the medicines…
Sleep. Nothing begs your body to rest like a cold, so snooze until noon… or just read a book. Today, when the fast lane is the only lane, time out may be just what you need for conserving energy to combat illness. Just be sure to get up and move every few hours to circulate blood flow.
Hydrate. Flush out viruses by sipping warm lemon water with honey, herb teas, or clear broth. Enjoy a hot bowl of chicken soup — the spices and certain compounds boost immune response, thin mucus, and reduce inflammation.
Relieve symptoms. Forget decongestants, which can delay recovery. Think twice before popping ibuprofen for pain — new studies suggest it may dial back your immune response. And beware of too much acetaminophen, which can damage your liver. Instead, gargle with salt water to soothe your sore throat and shorten its duration. Try saline sprays to open up nasal passages. If the sun is out, bundle up and grab some rays — vitamin D supports healing while fresh air invigorates.
Reading may save your life. (One study found that literacy influences longevity, likely because it reflects education… like healthier lifestyles and better healthcare.) But even if we can read doesn’t mean we do. Complex wording, confusing verbiage, and small type cause many to skim directions at best.
And while lawsuit risks prompt companies to issue inane warnings (like one on a hairdryer that discourages operating while asleep), most consumer labels reveal vital information. Follow these instructions for protecting your safety and health.
Avoid assumptions: When was the last time you read through an airline safety pamphlet? Even if you think you know the drill, read thoroughly to avoid misunderstanding. (One study found that patients misread the word external as extreme on a pharmaceutical label.) Pretend you’re completely ignorant so you can catch advice you might otherwise miss.
Ask questions: Clarify confusion with an expert and recite back what you understand to be key points, like dosage, side effects, and warnings. If you’re unsure about a direction or definition, inquire until the facts make sense.
Vocalize and emphasize. Reading aloud not only slows you down, it helps you absorb the information both visually and audibly. Then highlight or underline significant statements that will stand out when you need to refer back to the instructions.
When a bitter chill slaps your face, there’s nothing like a hot bowl of soup to take away the sting. And many savory broths aren’t just convenient lunch options or side dishes — combinations of spices and vegetables can deliver potent nutrients. But be careful… some ingredients can turn your nourishing dose of warmth into a blast of sodium, calories, and unhealthy additives. Simmer up a wholesome meal packed with hearty flavor without excess fat or salt:
Add potato or cauliflower purée to create a creamy bisque instead of most or all of the cream
Try probiotic–rich miso (fermented soybean paste) in stocks to enhance taste
Unlock spice potency by adding dried herbs at the beginning of cooking to give them time to rehydrate and fresh herbs toward the end to retain their essence
Up your fiber intake by supplementing any recipe with beans and whole grain rice or barley
Turn down the butter by sautéing in olive oil as you prepare soup ingredients; if you need moisture, try a bit of wine or reduced sodium broth.
It’s freezing, and you’re bundled head to toe. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a sedentary season. While cross–country skiing and snowshoe walking are well known calorie burners, winter welcomes other recreations that foster fun and fitness. Break a sweat with these surprising icy activities that melt away pounds.
- Snowball fight: Throw on the mittens and find a snowdrift. A good snowball fight can exert your entire body. Darting to and fro works your cardiovascular system, while the dodging and ducking send your legs, back, and buttocks into overtime. And hurling the frozen spheres back and forth will likely lead to laughter, which engages your abs and boosts endorphins.
- Sledding: In an hour, you can burn 400–500 calories — if you’re doing more than riding the toboggan. Every time you trudge up the hill, you tax your heart and lower body. Plus, staying upright down the slope requires more than just hanging on; your core must perform frequent stabilization movements to maintain control.
- Ice–skating: Akin to the summer fat buster rollerblading, the winter version will have you gliding to a smaller waistline and firmer buns… should you stay on your feet long enough to reap the aerobic benefits. Insert short spurts into your whirl around the rink, and you’ll enhance the overall metabolic rewards while steeling up your thighs.
Ever wonder how the Department of Agriculture validates our food? Food is subject to federal inspection for wholesomeness and must receive a stamp for passing safety and integrity standards if it’s to be sold on supermarket shelves. Great efforts are made to minimize bacterial contamination, but food–borne microbes can still proliferate, which is why safe food handling recommendations are required on all packages. Quality grading isn’t mandatory but many producers choose to include grades on their labels. So what exactly do those USDA shields mean?
- Meat: Beef, lamb, and veal receive 1 of 3 main marks — USDA Prime, USDA Choice, and USDA Good. Most popular is Choice, marking high quality. Prime signifies the highest quality… and most expensive. Good won’t exhibit the same tenderness and juiciness as its higher–grade counterparts, but it’s usually lower in fat.
- Eggs: While their size has nothing to do with their grade, the condition of their shell and interior consistency do. Grade AA is highest quality, suggesting firm yolks and thick whites. Grade A stands a close second. While Grade B eggs rarely appear in stores, they aren’t harmful if used for baking.
- Dairy: The highest–quality butter — considered the sweetest — receives Grade AA, but Grade A is still top notch. The Quality Approved shield on cottage cheese and sour cream simply confirms that the cheese was manufactured in a clean plant under USDA supervision.