Your Fall Health Check: 8 Steps to take before Winter | Rocky Mountain Health Plans Blog



How to Stay Healthy This Fall and Winter


A healthy winter starts with a healthy fall and taking great care of yourself year round. The Western Slope, though, is prone to very dry, cold winters. With it being cold and flu season, extra care this time of year doesn’t hurt.


1. Get your flu shot

At the top of your fall health checklist is getting your annual flu shot. Getting vaccinated doesn’t just protect you, it also protects everyone else you come into contact with.


Learn more about some common flu myths in this short article. You might be surprised to learn what is fact versus what is fiction. For example, did you know that it takes up to two weeks for your body to develop antibodies to fight the flu? Don’t wait, get vaccinated today.


2. Update everyone’s vaccines

While you’re scheduling flu shots, use this time to ensure you and your family is up to date on other important vaccines. Adults need the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) booster every 10 years whereas kids need various immunizations at certain ages.


If you’re unsure as to what immunizations to get and when, ask your health care team, or call RMHP Quality Improvement at 970-263-5552 to better understand when and what is needed.


3. Schedule annual checkups

If you haven’t already, make time for a yearly check-up this fall. You may not think a physical and blood-work is necessary every year, but most health insurance plans like Rocky Mountain Health Plans (RMHP) encourage preventative care. Fall is also a good time to schedule mammograms and other specialty visits.


4. Check flexible spending accounts (FSAs)

It’s a common type of year when flexible spending accounts (FSAs) associated with your health care are set to expire. Meaning the money in your FSA or health savings account (HSA) could be “use it or lose it.”


Any tax-free dollars left in these types of accounts disappear after December 31, so use this month to map out your healthcare needs for the remaining year in order to make wise spending decisions.


5. Check the expiration dates on meds

Do a sweep of your medicine cabinet and check the expiration dates of each package. Anything out of date should get tossed, but don’t just throw it in the trash. Check your community for medicine take-back events in which you can safely return your old prescriptions. If you must throw them away, be sure to crush tablets and capsules safely while combining in a sealed plastic back with coffee grounds, dirt, or kitty litter.


Don’t forget to remove all personal information from the containers prior to tossing. If you’re unsure about a medication’s longevity, contact your local pharmacist or your health care team.


6. Stock up on common medications

Once expired medications are safely out of the house, take stock of other common medications and supplements you might need this winter. Over-the-counter medications for the common cold and sore throats are great to have on hand. Don’t forget to include non-caffeinated herbal teas or lemons for hot water, which are great to soothe inflamed throats.

Additional items to consider on your health care list include a humidifier, which will help with dryness – a definite in Colorado’s winters. Don’t forget face or hand lotions and lip balms with sunscreen. Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean you can’t get chapped or sun-stressed skin..


7. Get in the habit of hand washing

Hand washing is an important part of your daily routine and is a great defense for keeping germs at bay. While it may seem silly, it’s important to remember how to wash your hands. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes to first wet your hands with lukewarm water, turn off the tap to save water (a precious resource in Colorado) then apply soap to scrub hands for at least 20 seconds.


If you’re simply rinsing and running then you’re more likely to get sick through the spread of germs. Don’t forget to wash hands before eating and frequently clean your work area, cell phone/tablet, and car steering wheel in addition to normal everyday use areas.


8. Make a plan to stay active all winter long

It’s so easy to become sedentary when the days are shorter and colder, but don’t let winter derail your active lifestyle. Staying or starting a physically active routine actually decreases the likelihood that you’ll catch a cold or flu this winter.


Colorado’s Grand Valley residents have several options for staying active all winter long, including putting snow tires on the fat bike and hitting the trails -- read more here. For more ideas beyond Western Colorado, use tips found here to stay active no matter your skills or abilities in staying active – there’s something for everyone.