Dr. Margaret Lewin is the medical director of Cinergy Health, and she’s got a thing or two to teach you about staying healthy not only down the line, but this winter. Yeah, the one that is happening right now, right in your face. 

Forget about lists of swine flu protection tips, downing obscene amounts of Emergen-C, or just holing up in your basement until the sun shines again. There’s a few things that you can do to mitigate your chances of getting sick. And, if you do get sick, to speed your recovery. 

Happily for all you hip snow sliders out there, she’s broken the system down into the easy-to-remember acrostic S.N.O.W.B.O.A.R.D. system.

Stay away from sick people – at least 3 to 6 feet, when possible. If the passenger next to you on the plane is coughing and sneezing, and you can’t change seats, offer him a packet of tissues and turn the air vent toward him.

Never go outside without wearing a good sunscreen. The combination of high altitude and reflected light from the snow expose you to significant damaging UVA and UVB rays. Not only is sun exposure a risk for skin cancers, but it’s also a major cause of pre-mature wrinkling. (Just look at the skin of the year-long ‘ski bums’ around you – they’re probably at least 10 years younger than you’d predict by looking at the lines and crevices on their faces!)

Obtain your flu shot(s) at least two weeks before your travel, so you have time to rev up your immune system for your trip.

Wash your hands scrupulously before touching your face or eating. There are only two ways to catch a cold or the flu: by getting the virus from an ill person’s sneezing or coughing directly at you, or by his coughing into his hand and then touching a doorknob or banister which you yourself touch – picking up the virus. Once you touch your face or food with that contaminated hand, you’re well on your way to spending part of your well-deserved vacation huddled under the covers alone except for some aspirin and a cup of lukewarm chicken soup… looking wistfully out the window at the happy, healthy skiers.

Be sure to get enough sleep and fluids.   Winter vacations can be physically exhausting, and your system needs enough rest for you to enjoy the next day’s activities. You also need plenty of fluids to compensate for the dry, cold air outside and the warm dry air in front of the fireplace.

Over-the-counter vitamin D (at least 800IU daily) is thought to offer some protection against colds and the flu. (You also need vitamin D for good bone health, and it may even offer some protection against the eventual development of heart disease and dementia.)

Allow plenty of time to get in shape before your trip, concentrating on exercises which protect your knees, hips and balance.

Remember to check your health insurance when you schedule your vacation. Make sure that you’re generously covered for medical evacuation… just in case. If your policy isn’t adequate, take a look at such internet sites as http://www.insuremytrip.com/ to find inexpensive travel health and accident coverage.

Don’t forget to eat healthily just because you’re on vacation. You will have burned up about 400 calories every hour you’ve skied, giving you the chance to sneak in some extra calories during the day. Aim for light, healthy snacks (such as fruit or trail mix) – remembering that you don’t ski your best on a very full stomach. You really can eat your evening meal healthily without feeling deprived by following a few simple rules.