As the leaves fall, the days get shorter, and the temperatures drop, the risk of catching a cold or the flu rises. The arrival of this year’s Flu Season may be unwelcome and inevitable, but thankfully, getting sick doesn’t have to be.
There are plenty of scientifically-proven ways to bolster your immune system and help your body defend itself against the coughs, sneezes, and sore throats that can make this time of year so miserable.
Good hand hygiene is your first line of defense against germs. We touch our faces all the time without knowing it, especially when we’re sneezing or coughing. For that reason, cold and flu viruses are easily transmitted from person to person through germ-covered hands.
A quick splash under the faucet isn’t enough to kill the pathogens that might make you sick. For best results, wet your hands with warm water and lather them together with soap, making sure to scrub between each finger, for at least 20 seconds. Then, rinse the soapsuds away under clean running water and dry thoroughly.
Throughout the day, your hands come into contact with billions of microbes as you touch various surfaces in your environment. Unless you’re careful, you'll inevitably end up touching your face at some point by scratching your nose, nibbling your nail, or rubbing your eye — essentially, the mucous membranes that viruses readily attack.
Make a habit of keeping your hands away from your face until you get the chance to wash them.
Stay one step ahead of the flu this season by arming yourself with plenty of soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant cleaning supplies, and paper towels before it begins.
A well-stocked medicine cabinet will also ensure that a cold or flu will never catch you off-guard. Having all the remedies you need at the ready may not shorten the length of your illness, but it can alleviate annoying symptoms and help you feel better faster. Invest in a humidifier and stock up on pain relievers, fever reducers, cough syrups, antihistamines, and decongestants. (Don't forget the chicken soup!)
Drinking plenty of fluids helps keep your mucous membranes (like your nostrils) moist, helping them trap infectious pathogens more efficiently, giving them less of an opportunity to invade your cells and make you sick. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day—at least eight, 8-ounce glasses—is the best way to stay well-hydrated and keep all of your body's defenses in peak condition.
Giving your body the high-quality fuel it needs to fight germs is essential if you want to sail through flu season this year. Make sure you’re eating a well-balanced, colorful diet of minimally processed foods, and pop a daily multivitamin containing vitamins D3 and C and zinc for an added nutritional boost. Studies have shown that the probiotics in yogurt also improve immune function by balancing out the gut microbiome with good bacteria.
It's not just hands that need sanitizing during flu season. Anything that people touch frequently should be wiped clean with a disinfectant to keep nasty germs at bay — and yes, that includes your smartphone screen!
Studies have shown that influenza viruses can survive on hard surfaces like light switches, public drinking fountains, doorknobs, tabletops, counters, and shopping cart handles for more than 24 hours.
That “run down” feeling you get when you’re emotionally or physically stressed is nothing to sneeze at. It can make you more susceptible to colds and flu. Chronic surges of the stress hormone cortisol can strain your immune system over time, which can negatively impact your body’s ability to fight infection.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but steering clear of friends, family, and acquaintances with cold or flu symptoms is key to keeping healthy. Encourage them to stay home if they’re under the weather, and reschedule plans when they’re feeling better again. Luckily, the recent pandemic means fewer people are showing up sick.
To further reduce your chances of viral infection, avoid large public gatherings, particularly in enclosed indoor spaces. Instead of joining the Black Friday rush during peak flu season, save your shopping for Cyber Monday instead.
Here’s one more reason not to skip that workout: daily exercise can boost your immune system! One study showed a 43 percent reduction in upper respiratory tract infections in those who exercised the most versus those who exercised the least.
Aim to fit in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity movement per day (even walking or bike riding counts) to reap the benefits.
Staying up late to binge-watch just one more episode of your favorite show is tempting, but if you want to stay healthy, save it for tomorrow and hit the hay instead. Your body will thank you!
Chronic sleep deprivation reduces your immune system’s ability to produce cytokines, which help fight inflammation and infection. Studies have shown that people who get sufficient sleep are less susceptible to the common cold.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.