Tips to Avoid Cold and Flu

January 16, 2023

With the winter season in full swing, it’s much easier for our immune systems to be weakened and our bodies to become susceptible to bacteria and viruses. While we congregate inside to keep warm, cold and flu illnesses are more easily transferrable. Read on to discover some tips to avoid getting sick this season.

Diet: Ensure your diet is full of vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system. Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc., are helpful, as are green vegetables. Use all colors of the rainbow when preparing meals.

Zinc: Take a zinc supplement within 24 hours of feeling mildly ill or “off” to reduce the chances of getting full-blown sickness. Research finds that by taking zinc sublingual (under the tongue), the body quickly absorbs the nutrient, which can help prevent respiratory tract infections and reduce the severity of symptoms. 

Vitamin D: This vitamin is especially crucial during the cold, dreary winter months, as we absorb much of our Vitamin D from sunshine in other months. Vitamin D foods include egg yolks, mushrooms, salmon, tuna, beef liver, or supplements.

Hydrate: Every tissue and organ within the human body relies on water to carry minerals and nutrients throughout each cell. Water also keeps your nose and throat moist, which helps trap bacteria before it infiltrates your immune system. Health experts commonly recommend drinking at least eight glasses of water every day. Include green tea in your regime; it has a high level of antioxidants and several health benefits. Also, avoid alcohol and stick to sugar-free, caffeine-free beverages as much as possible.

Moisturize:  Healthy mucous membranes are naturally moist and hydrated and act as a barrier to pathogens. When cold, wintry air dries out the membranes in our nasal passages, it creates cracks or breaks within the lining and allows viruses to invade our bodies more easily. Moisturize dry air using a humidifier and rehydrate the nasal passages with nasal saline drops.

Exercise: A regular routine such as walking, stretching, or jogging helps to minimize inflammation, reduce stress, increase circulation, and distribute white blood cells, which fight diseases. Every day, keep your body moving but don’t overdo it with extreme exercise, which can elevate stress hormones and increase your risk for infection. Respect your body’s limits and build in recovery days if you’re training for endurance.

Sleep: Healthy people generally sleep a minimum of eight hours nightly and are less susceptible to viruses and bacteria due to the body’s release of cytokines during that time. Cytokines are proteins that help fight infection by regulating the immune system.

Calm Down: Doctors suspect that there is a connection between chronic mental stress and physical illness. Practice yoga, meditate, or find another way to alleviate personal stress. The continuous release of cortisol, the stress hormone produced by your adrenal glands, will lose its effectiveness in fighting inflammation and disease and lower your immune system.

Hygiene: One of the easiest ways to avoid germs is to create environments they cannot survive in. Ensure you wash your hands before eating or preparing food or any contact with your eyes or mouth. Cover your mouth while sneezing, carry hand sanitizer, and disinfect shared surfaces like phones, doorknobs, remote controls, keyboards, etc.

Keep it Personal: According to the National Health Service, flu viruses can survive on surfaces for 24 hours. Try to remain mindful of this by frequently wiping down counters and door knobs when an illness is running through your household. Also, avoid sharing germs, use your own toothbrush, utensils, and glassware, and wash contaminated towels, toys, etc., in hot soapy water.

Staying healthy can be tricky, but using some common sense and some not-so-common advice will help. Stand back a bit from others, giving yourself some space from others who may cough or sneeze droplets into the air. Take a multivitamin and visit a primary care doctor regularly for check-ups. Remember, don’t go overboard by being a clean freak; germs help train the immune system and can help build up a healthy immune response. Also, remember to look on the bright side of things. Having a positive outlook will help ward off illness.  

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