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Off to a Healthy Start

How to keep yourself up and running throughout the year.

By Sheree Crute

Fall is a great time for fresh starts, but the change of seasons can play havoc with your health. You may blame germs for fall illnesses, but stress is the hidden culprit—a stepped-up work pace can sap your energy, zap your immune system, and leave you wondering what hit you before winter’s first chill. Here’s our guide to home and work strategies to have you sprinting healthfully into the school year.

Outsmart Stress


Research has shown that stress can spike your blood pressure, damage your arteries, and suppress your immune system, leaving you susceptible to all kinds of viruses. So how can you manage stress better to avoid getting sick in the first place?

Accentuate the positive. Research shows that the intense emotions we associate with stress can actually help rather than harm your health if they lead to a sense of achievement and excitement. Although stress is unavoidable, it doesn’t have to be negative, says Doug Wood, Ed.D., executive director for the National Academy for Excellent Teaching at Columbia University Teachers College. Some workplace stress is manageable if you adjust your point of view. So look for the positive in every situation you can. No, the pandemonium in your school cafeteria won’t magically turn into a yoga session, but a philosophical shrug or grin at the foibles of adolescent behavior may just lower your blood pressure instead of raising it.

Be holistic. Exercise and a healthy diet are important, but they’re not enough to ward off stress—you must also attend to mind and spirit. Maintain a support network. While many women have these in place already, men may need to identify friends and colleagues who can lend an ear when needed.

Live in the Rhythm

The circadian cycle signals your brain to wake and sleep, so stick to your body’s circadian rhythm. “It’s the natural way to avoid fatigue,” explains Harvard Medical School research fellow Patrick Fuller.

Sleep consistently. Periodic sleep marathons will just throw you further out of balance. “[G]o to bed and get up within the same 30-minute time span every day,” says Fuller. “If you need an alarm to wake up, you’re sleep deprived.”

Follow the clock. Avoid caffeine after mid-afternoon, more than two alcoholic drinks a day, or aerobic exercise an hour before bed, says Fuller.

“It will just confuse your body’s natural clock.”

Keep Sniffles in Check

September kicks off cold and flu season, and toddler-size nasal passages are more likely to harbor cold viruses than those of older kids and adults, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). New research can give you the upper hand.

Fight flu with food. Flu shots are still your best defense, advises NIH, but recent research shows that selenium, a mineral in whole grains, also inhibits the flu virus. Get trace amounts from food (too much can be toxic)—try garlic or stir wheat germ into your yogurt or cereal.

Count down colds. Colds are most contagious in the first three days, NIH advises, so stay home during that time and offer your students’ parents the same advice.

Clear out allergies. “Fall is ragweed, tree pollen, and outdoor mold season—a nose full if you’re allergy prone,” says James Li, M.D., chair of the allergy division at the Mayo Clinic. His advice: Close windows and switch on a well-cleaned air conditioner or ventilation system—HEPA filters help. Remember, moist, dirty surfaces encourage molds and dust mites.

24-Hour Service, the latest venture of America Online co-founder Steve Case, is a revolutionary concept in online health information and services. The free content includes disease information, doctor ratings, a symptom checker, and physician blogs where you can submit questions. Member services ($129 per year) include a 24-hour registered nurse hotline, a team to help you solve health insurance problems, and a group that contacts doctors for you to check experience and insurance acceptance.

Breaking News

Lots of sites claim to offer breaking health news, but Yahoo is the most comprehensive by far. Yahoo! Health reports daily national and international health news from several major news organizations, including Reuters and Healthday. It also has an archive and search engine to help you sort health stories by topic.

Personalized Health Plan
An updated version of the food pyramid concept, helps you design a personalized eating and fitness plan (for good health or weight loss). Best of all, unlike other weight loss sites, the plan is completely free. Healthy eating guidelines for kids are available as well.

Table Comparing Hand Cleansers


Comparing Hand Cleansers

Washing your hands with soap and water is best say the experts—it’s the friction of rubbing hands together that works. But a sink isn’t always available, so what about those on-the-go hand sanitizers teachers and parents love so well? See how our product panel and your peers rated the most popular antibacterial cleansers.

price - $2.29

smell - Clean but antiseptic

feel - Refreshing and wet, so it feels like you’re getting your hands clean

ease of use - Portable, but you  need a place to toss used wipes`

kid factor - “Smells a little bit like cleaner”

price - $5.00

smell - Zesty grapefruit scent that lasted through next washing

feel - Moisturizing power nice because typical antibacterial gels are so drying

ease of use - Convenient to carry

kid factor - “Feels medicine-y, like it’s working”

price - $1.79

smell - Light and lemony

feel - Refreshing, but is it really getting my hands clean?

ease of use - Easy to store, but nozzle is hard to aim, and pump broke after a few sprays

kid factor - “Oooh, I like this one”

price - $5.00

smell - Way too strong, but you could tell whether your kid washed her hands or just rinsed!

feel - Soft and squishy, makes you want to wash your hands

ease of use - Convenient if there’s a water source nearby

kid factor - (Giggle) “Smells like sour grapes”

price - $2.19

smell - Redolent of rubbing alcohol

feel - Check kids’ hands for cuts—the alcohol in the gel might burn!

ease of use - Can take it anywhere

kid factor - “Nice to know you’re ‘lotioning’ and cleaning at the same time”

price - $0.90

smell - Fresh and familiar

feel - Like it’s getting the job done

ease of use - Gotta have a sink and towel handy

kid factor - “Soap and water is the best!”


Stones Products: Groff Creative, Inc.

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…Talk back to my doctor

Tips on communicating with M.D.s

When reading specialist Nancy Porter got the call that her husband had suffered a stroke, she rushed to the hospital. But she wasn’t prepared to get the cold shoulder from his doctors. “They flipped through charts, refused eye contact, and ignored my questions—just acted like we could be dismissed,” Porter says. She finally enlisted the help of a world-renowned stroke specialist from their hometown hospital in Iowa City, where she later transferred her husband. Her advice? 1) Don’t be ignored; 2) write out a list of questions and press until they are answered; and 3) if you’re still stymied, make your case to the hospital’s social workers or administrators until you receive the attention you need.