Winter months are here, and with them comes those annoying runny or stuffy noses and persistent coughs. The common cold is tough to avoid when the majority of activities are relegated to being indoors. Quarantine conditions would need to be implemented in the workplace to remove any chance of one of 200 very contagious viruses entering your respiratory tract and giving you a week of grief.

Adults average two to three colds a year, but that number goes up when they work around children. Despite the near-inevitability of getting sick, there are tried-and-true methods for reducing risk of catching a cold and decreasing the amount of true sick days taken during the season.

Hand washing is key. Most diseases enter the body when hands touch the nose or mouth. In addition to minimizing that type of contact, wash hands before and after eating (including snacks) and after bathroom visits. Use soap and warm water for a good 20 seconds. Hand sanitizers work well, too; during the cold season it is wise to carry a bottle of sanitizer around all the time.

Avoiding excessive fatigue and stress is also essential to preventing colds. Suffering from these symptoms is more likely to cause sickness than simply being exposed to the elements. Stay well-rested.

When you do catch a cold, do everyone a favor (including yourself) and stay at home, away from public places, keep warm and drink plenty of fluids. Tips for prevention of colds also work well for shortening the duration of colds.

WebMD provides extensive resources on the common cold, including home remedies, studies on treatments like zinc and Vitamin C, and the difference between a common cold and more dangerous influenza.

On that note: be sure to get a flu shot this year and every year to insure yourself against a potentially debilitating disease!

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This new story in WebMD shows startling facts on the health situation in America. Diabetes runs rampant through our country and it puts a strain on healthcare. A new study shows that this is costing companies $174 billion a year in lost work days and claims costs.

With cases of diabetes up 90%, you can only expect healthcare to go up, unless you do more to protect yourself against this debilitating disease. Eat right, exercise and get regular check-ups to insure yourself against what could cause kidney failure, blindness and even death.

Halloween is approaching yet again, and with it comes trick-or-treating and bucketloads of candy. Your children will be coming home in costume, bags filled with treats after their benign neighborhood raid, and chances are they’ll eat as much of that candy as they can.

It’s a good thing an article recently surfaced on CNN about ways to get around or avoid that holiday splurge and its negative consequences: becoming sick to your stomach and contributing to unhealthy weight gain.

The article points out that Halloween is a good time to teach your kids about portion control. Candy, however delectable, is not nutritious and its empty calories can upset metabolism – but only if eaten in large quantities. As most adults know, candy enjoyed in moderation is a real treat that won’t have any consequences (as long as proper dental hygiene is followed, too). Check out the above article for some solutions for teaching your children about smart consumption.

But, as we at the BenefitsVIP office know all too well, candy is often readily available for adults in the workplace throughout the fall. Though no one is eating vast amounts of candy on the job, the small amounts here and there that you are eating can add up. And since the feast season is just around the corner (Thanksgiving and Christmas), keep track of what you’re indulging in during this holiday pregame to prevent any unexpected dietary consequences.

We’re all tuning in to the news programs and seeing the economy coming apart at the seams. As one financial institution after another crumbles, the hardship this causes is coming closer and closer to affecting everyday life. People who are still employed dread the day when cutbacks at their job put them into a tougher spot.

Many companies are discovering the secret to cushioning the blow that comes from these tough times. The trick is saving thousands on healthcare costs by encouraging what so many of us strive for anyway–good health. Wellness programs are the insurance behind the insurance, promoting a healthy lifestyle for you and your family by:

  • eating right
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • avoiding harmful habits like smoking
  • becoming more active and energetic
  • going to the doctor and actively preventing all-too-common ailments like diabetes and heart disease

Not only does living a healthy lifestyle keep you and yours in good shape, but it ends up saving your company big money in claims costs because less people are getting sick. So you have secure health and a more secure job.

So we at BenefitsVIP encourage you to partake in your company’s wellness programs, now and after this economic dilemma is long gone. It ends up being a win-win situation, which we all need.

A new study of nearly 20,000 patients of all ages shows that the flu vaccine is a statistical success in curbing the often-troublesome, sometimes-dangerous influenza disease. The study, done by CVS Caremark, found that hospital visits related to pneumonia and influenza went down 24% for people who received the immunization. What’s more, overall hospital visits went down nearly 20% among the vaccinated group.

Colder weather is on the way, and flu season, as always, is right behind it. The above evidence shows that the flu vaccine works. With the flu vaccine, you can keep your family healthy and out of the hospital this winter, especially if someone you know suffers from chronic conditions like diabetes, heart failure, or asthma.

Flu vaccinations are inexpensive and easy to come by. The flu season started this month, so now is the time to receive your flu shot if you have not yet. Talk to your HR manager about where you can get a flu vaccination to help insure yourself against a cold that doesn’t need to be so common.

Our last post talked about starting the day on as healthy a note as possible by choosing the right foods for breakfast.

This post goes into another typically-unhealthy consumption practice: snacks.

People often bridge the long gap between lunch and dinner with a mini-meal of candy or chips (sometimes both!)  While there is likely nobody from V8 running around the workplace smacking these people in the head, they are definitely missing out on a chance to refresh their tired bodies with a more nutritious snack.

Fruit, cups of yogurt, instant breakfast drinks like Ensure and V8, and cheese crackers are all easy,  more healthy substitutes than the usually high fructose/partially hydrogenated snacks that fall from your local vending machine.  Just as a good breakfast can make you feel far better throughout the early part of the day, a proper snack can give you energy and focus to insure yourself that you’ll finish out that day on a good note.

If you have a little time on your hands to create an even more flavorful break food, try these recipes for healthy snacks.

We’ve all heard about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Some people translate that as “eat something, no matter what it is.” Though it’s true that eating something when you wake up jump-starts your metabolism and is better than eating nothing at all, getting breakfast right by eating healthier foods is even better.

Several people, myself included have a very busy start to their day. Since time is short, many of them get their morning fix on the way to work, usually at those quintessential diet road-bumps: fast food restaurants. In addition to their breakfast staples, chains like McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts are constantly rolling out tantalizing new premium offerings on their morning menu for participants in the rat race. Those foods are, more often than not, high in saturated fats and sodium. You may get the chance to burn off the calories from these hefty helpings during your workday, but their low nutritonal value will still slow you down. Eating a relatively nutritious alternative will keep your energy level up, meaning you could be less tempted to drink those extra cups of coffee later in the day.

Medical advice site WebMD, which creates great slide shows about nutrition and other topics, shows in a recent offering which fast food breakfasts to avoid at popular restaurant chains and which are a better bet. The foods to avoid are really not that surprising; enjoying an”enormous omelette sandwich” or a “junior breakfast burger” is pure hedonism, and the smarter and likely just as satisfying choice exists in a different breakfast.

The experts at WebMD suggests eating at home, if possible. One thing I like to do for my morning routine is to make a fast food breakfast trip a special once-a-week event. If you can make time to eat cereal, toast and/or eggs at home before heading to work, you’ll have the opportunity to start your day off with a more nutritious meal and save money. And even the most plain bagels from Dunkin Donuts will seem like a real treat if you enjoy them in moderation.