Doctor shares his 8 strategies to protect yourself from winter viruses


Doctor shares his 8 strategies to protect yourself from winter viruses

With the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 triple disease affecting children and adults across the United States, primary care physicians are on the front lines of viral illnesses that are causing all the misery.

dr Gary LeRoy, a family doctor in Dayton, Ohio, and former president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, actually calls it “quadremic” because he inserts the common cold into the mix of diseases currently circulating.

“In my career, and it’s been about 30 years now, I’ve simply never seen a post-holiday viral outbreak that was as significant as it was this year,” LeRoy tells

“It seems like half the patients I saw one afternoon had some form of upper respiratory illness, especially after the Thanksgiving holiday trips… It’s not something that’s going to go away immediately because we haven’t even gotten to that yet.” are Christmas holidays yet.”

Weekly US Chart: Influenza Summary Update.  (CDC)

Weekly US Chart: Influenza Summary Update. (CDC)

Winter is traditionally the season for colds and flu. So how does a family doctor, surrounded by so many sick patients, stay healthy at this time of year? LeRoy shares these tips that can help anyone who isn’t getting sick right now:

Stay up to date on vaccines

That’s “primarily” on LeRoy’s checklist. He started getting his flu vaccine earlier than usual after hearing warnings of a bad flu season in the southern hemisphere that may predict what’s about to happen in the US

He is also on his fourth COVID-19 shot.

Keep covering up and washing hands

LeRoy’s practice has never stopped requiring masks, so he wears one during office hours. Outside of work, the doctor decides on a case-by-case basis whether to wear a mask in public interiors.

For example, when people packed into stores during the Thanksgiving holiday, LeRoy wore a mask. If there are fewer shoppers around, he may not be wearing a mask but is keeping his distance from others. He consciously avoids crowds, goes to the cinema during break times or goes shopping late at night when fewer people are out.

“I’m still the guy who tends to stand about two meters away from the person who’s in line ahead of me at the supermarket,” he says.

“And I’m a fan of hand washing — when I touch things that I know other people have touched, I tend to sanitize or wash my hands.”

Focus on a healthy diet

“Our immune system needs proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep to build itself up so it can attack the invading viruses,” says LeRoy.

He avoids foods high in sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates, instead focusing on a balanced selection of fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, kale, and spinach, which are rich in vitamins.

The doctor is a strong believer in staying hydrated and drinks plenty of water throughout the day.

“I’m diabetic, so staying hydrated is very important for me to keep my sugar under control,” he says. “Your immune system won’t function efficiently if your diabetes gets out of control.”

Don’t rely on vitamins or supplements

They’re not a substitute for a balanced diet, LeRoy warns. He tries to get the nutrients his body needs through food.

“Sometimes we take these mega-vitamins and they’re way above the recommended daily allowance for adults, so we end up with very expensive urine and stool,” he notes.

Practice every day

LeRoy’s favorite sport is walking and he has made it a habit to walk a mile or two during lunch so he can get 10,000 steps every day. He also aims to get in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day — any movement that gets his heart rate up.

When you’re not moving, it’s like taking a car and staying in the garage for the winter — things don’t work so well when the car is stationary, he notes.

“We’re cardiovascular units,” says LeRoy. “One way to get (the heart) to make the flow of oxygen and blood through our bodies more efficient is through exercise. This, in cooperation with our immune system, helps ensure that disease-fighting white blood cells get to where they’re supposed to go.”

People feel so refreshed and renewed after a workout because things are moving through the body, he adds.

Seek out fresh air and sunlight

LeRoy has a gym membership but tries to run outdoors whenever the weather permits.

“I really like going outside. Not only does it give you the fresh air you need, it really invigorates you emotionally and mentally,” he says.

“If I go for a week or so where there just aren’t any sunny days, you start to feel the blah blah because you don’t have that sunlight. When the sun is out it’s good to get out and spend more time outside.”

get enough sleep

LeRoy recommends seven to eight hours a night, tending towards eight, because while we sleep the body builds or builds our immune system.

“Your immune system needs time to make the necessary elements to fight off disease, bacteria and viruses when the body is not actively moving,” he says.

“We need to stop and shut off the engines so they can focus their attention on building these molecular antibodies that protect our bodies.”

Do things that bring you joy

“One of the things that can further weaken the immune system is depression and anxiety and just emotional lulls that come with those winter months with the gray skies and the cold,” says LeRoy.

“We just sit in place and don’t eat properly, we don’t sleep properly and we don’t find joy in being inside. So doing things that bring you joy (can help).”

This article was originally published on

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