Cold and Flu Busters
Keep your hands to yourself and off your face. Direct contact with a sick person, such as touching or kissing, is the #1 way germs are transmitted. Eighty percent of colds are spread by direct contact.
Indirect contact, such as handling a doorknob that a sick person has touched (unbeknownst to you), and then spreading it to your face by touching your mouth, nose or eyes, is another common way germs travel from person to person.
Proper hand-washing is especially important during the cold and flu season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that hand-washing is the single most important prevention step for reducing disease transmission. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 15 seconds (the time it takes to sing the ABCs).
Stress not only negatively affects your mental health, but it affects your physical health, too.
Stress is an inevitable fact of life, but you can counteract it by finding a balance and learning to unwind. Whether it’s exercising, journaling, repeating positive affirmations, or hanging out with family and friends, whatever helps you de-stress, do it often. Incorporate some peace and relaxation into every day.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Downing eight 8-ounce glasses of water should be part of your regular routine every day, but especially during cold and flu season. Water is used by every cell in your body and is essential for flushing out toxins and germs.
If water isn’t your beverage of choice, find ways to make it more appealing and flavorful. Have fresh-cut lemon or lime wedges on hand, or purchase flavored or sparkling water at the grocery store. Hot tea is also a good way to take in more water. Not only is it soothing in the cold winter months, but hot tea (especially peppermint flavors) can help clear nasal congestion and open your airways.
Your food choices impact your immune system, and nutrient-rich foods will keep it healthy and happy. A healthy immune system is your best defense against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and carcinogens that make you ill. By focusing on nutrient-rich foods instead of high-calorie, sugary or fatty foods you can help ward off illness.
The best foods to include in your diet are:
Omega-3-rich fish, such as salmon, herring and mackerel
Nuts and seeds
Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit
Vitamin-rich vegetables, such as leafy greens, tomatoes, broccoli, and sweet potatoes
Lean protein, found in chicken, fish, tofu, eggs and low-fat dairy foods
Garlic and onion
People who exercise regularly are less likely to get sick. In fact, studies have shown that exercising daily and maintaining a healthy body weight bolsters your immune system and helps your body fight infection.
Daily exercise, whether a walk after dinner or a kickboxing class at the gym, also keeps your stress levels in check and promotes a better night’s rest. However, too much exercise can have the opposite effect. If you’re a serious athlete, don’t forget to include rest days in your fitness routine to give your body a break.
During the cold and flu season, getting enough zzzs is especially important. If you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more susceptible to getting sick. You need the strength you get from rest to help you fight off a cold or flu.
Develop an evening routine to help you bed down easier. Turn off all distractions like TV and the computer long before you’re ready to fall asleep. Avoid late-night exercise, caffeinated drinks and food close to bedtime. Keep your room dark and at a comfortably cool temperature.
If you really want to maximize your odds of avoiding the flu, get vaccinated. Flu season begins in October and can last through May. While experts recommend getting vaccinated in October or November, you can still do it in December or later.