With the cold weather comes the spread of germs, especially ones bearing flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season peaks from December to February but starts as early as October. It’s no wonder, kids are in school and we spend more time indoors, we become susceptible to more illnesses and infections
Flu is highly contagious and spreads through the droplets of an infected person that sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose.
We all know a few practical ways to avoid infection, like keeping your hands clean and away from your face, but there are other things you can do right now to boost your body’s defenses and reduce the chances of infection.
Follow these tips to keep your immune system strong and healthy all season long:
- Stay active regularly. Motivation to move may waiver in colder months, but it’s important to stay active any way you can. Research indicates that exercise can stimulate the immune system. In a 2000 study reported in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, scientists found that modest exercise may prevent the elderly from getting colds and flu. Even lightly exercising while sick (moderately sick, of course) has benefits, too!
- Rinse your sinuses. Nasal irrigation is a centuries-old hygiene practice. Typically used to relieve nasal congestion, sinus rinses can be preventative, too. Use a neti pot, saline spray, or bulb syringe regularly to wash away bacteria and other infectious agents before they become a problem. Never use tap water and always follow the directions on your irrigating device.
- Catch those Zzzzs. Lack of sleep may profoundly inhibit your immune system. The benefits of sleep are numerous, and getting a full night’s sleep can keep your body’s natural defenses at optimum efficiency. The recommended amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours a night.
- Avoid Sugar. Sweet treats, like candy and soda, contain excessive amounts of sugar that can impair your immune response. Instead, opt for fruit like berries, which are rich in vitamins C and E, and can help support immune function. When cravings can’t be beaten, however, reach for sugar-free chocolate candy.
- Stock up on supplements. Garlic, zinc, and olive leaf are known for helping to support immune health. Garlic offers wide-ranging health benefits, including providing antioxidant protection. Olive leaf extract is a source of phytochemicals (plant-based enzymes) and also functions as an antioxidant, working to protect your body’s healthy cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.†
- Watch what you touch. Flu germs can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours. In public, you may want to avoid touching door handles, knobs, and buttons with your bare hands. Eliminate germs at work by disinfecting frequently touched objects like printer buttons, phones, and keyboards. If you or someone in your household comes down with flu, you’ll want to regularly sanitize dishes, bedding, and laundry with which the sick person has come in contact. Be sure to learn which are the surfaces with the most germs and how to clean them.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.