Now is a time for transition. We’re trying to squeeze a couple more months out of our summer clothes. Saturday picnics are becoming Saturday soccer games. Fantasy baseball is making way for fantasy football. Halloween costumes are cropping up in stores. Fall is coming. (I even saw someone in a down vest the other day—seriously.)
When winter ends we come out of hibernation and do a spring-cleaning to get ready for the rest of the year. Well, I propose that we should do the same thing in fall. But instead of our house, we prepare our health. I call it the Autumn Recharge.
Here are four things you should do every year as summer ends and fall starts to get yourself on the way to wellness for the toughest part of the year.
1. Get a flu shot. It’s still a little early for flu season, which usually peaks in January and February in the U.S. However, flu can show up as early as October—and the flu shot takes about two weeks to work—so September is an ideal time to think about getting vaccinated. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommend that everyone 6 months and older get annual flu vaccinations. Since the strain of the flu virus can change each year, it is important to get vaccinated every year. Immunizations, including this one, are one of the best public health measures that we have: When you get the flu vaccine, you not only help to protect yourself, but also those around you, from getting sick.
2. Go in for preventive health screenings. I have been filling out reams of back-to-school forms for our children, and now that those forms are complete and the kids are back in school, it’s my turn—and yours. Have you had a physical this year, or your annual gynecological checkup and Pap smear? What about a mammogram? There remains some controversy as to what age to begin screening: The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends biannual screening beginning at age 50 and the American Cancer Society recommends annual screening beginning at age 40. In addition, individual risk factors may affect the age at which you begin screening. Be sure to review this with your physician.
3. Get a skin check. It’s important to see a dermatologist for a skin check every year. Skin cancer can appear anywhere—on your scalp, under your nails, between your toes and even under your toenails. It’s helpful to have someone else checking all those hard to see spots—especially after three glorious months spent soaking up the sun. And remember: Just because you may not be outside as much now does not mean that you can pack away the sunscreen. Keep using it daily—there’s as much UV radiation in the winter as there is in the summer, even though it doesn’t feel hot.
4. Replace your toothbrush. While you are picking up those extra school supplies this month, take a detour to the other side of the store and grab a new toothbrush. It’s a good idea to change toothbrushes several times a year, as the bristles get worn down and can harbor more germs. In fact, think of getting a new toothbrush at least every six months, when you go for dental cleaning. (Do you avoid the dentist? Then think about this: Semiannual appointments can detect oral problems early on, when treatment is easier, and pick up other medical problems or diseases that have an oral component.) Talk about a simple way to get a jump on a healthy fall.