The cold and flu season is in full swing with viruses spreading quickly from person to person. While catching a cold or the flu is almost inevitable for some people, there are proactive steps you can take to boost your immune system and reduce your risk of getting sick. In this article, we'll explore various tips and strategies for staying healthy during the peak months for respiratory illnesses.
Stock Up on Vitamins and Supplements
Taking certain vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements can help support your immune system so it's better equipped to fight off invading viruses. Some of the most beneficial include:
- Vitamin C - This powerhouse antioxidant supports white blood cell function and production. While you can get vitamin C from citrus fruits and other whole foods, supplements provide a more concentrated dose. Aim for 1,000-2,000 mg per day when sick to boostrecovery.
- Vitamin D - Levels tend to drop in winter when sun exposure is low. A deficiency impairs immune defenses. Supplement with 2,000-4,000 IU daily.
- Zinc - Critical for immune cell replication and response. A clear lozenge provides quick absorption when symptoms arise. Otherwise, get 15-25 mg daily.
- Elderberry - This plant shows promise against both influenza and coronavirus in human studies. Follow label dosing guidelines.
- Probiotics - The microbiome plays a role in immunity. A high-quality supplement supports good gut bacteria.
- Mushrooms - Varieties like reishi, shiitake, and maitake contain compounds that boost immunity. Consider a supplement blending different types.
Having these immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and botanicals on hand means you can start supplementation at the first sign of illness to speed recovery. Consult your doctor before taking very large doses.
Practice Good Hygiene Habits
With cold and flu viruses easily spreading on surfaces and through the air, maintaining good hygiene is key to avoiding exposure. Some effective habits include:
- Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being around others, touching surfaces outside the home, using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before eating.
- Avoid touching your face, which provides an easy entry point for pathogens picked up on hands.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces like countertops, tabletops, doorknobs, faucets, and electronics. Clean surfaces with an antimicrobial spray or wipe.
- Avoid sharing cups, utensils, or towels which can transfer saliva or respiratory droplets.
- Consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces to prevent inhaling infected droplets from others. They primarily protect others from you if you are sick.
- Get vaccinated for influenza if applicable for your age and health status. While it does not prevent all strains, it reduces risk and severity.
With diligent hand washing as the top priority, good hygiene habits can meaningfully lower your risk of pathogens getting into your system. Pay extra attention during peak cold and flu season.
Keep Stress Under Control
High levels of stress place extra demands on the body that make it harder to fight off illness. When under pressure, levels of infection-fighting cortisol rise but so do compounds that suppress immunity over the long term. Some relaxing strategies and self-care practices to adopt when life gets hectic include:
- Deep breathing exercises - Slow, deep inhales and exhales lower cortisol and pulse rate within minutes.
- Meditation and prayer - As little as 10 minutes a day can relieve stress and boost immunity.
- Yoga and stretching - Gentle poses make muscles more pliable and alleviate tension.
- Music - Listening to upbeat or calming tunes lowers stress hormones and blood pressure.
- Laughing - It increases infection-fighting antibodies in saliva and lungs briefly after.
- Social interaction - Positive conversations and alone time with close contacts buffers the effects of stress.
- Adequate sleep - Most adults need 7-9 hours nightly for full restoration and immune rebuilding.
- Massage therapy - It directly lowers cortisol in muscles and improves circulation.
Incorporating stress reduction self-care tactics can support your health when contagious illnesses are going around. Make relaxation a priority to keep immunity strong.
Eat a Nutritious Diet
You are what you eat, so fueling your body with the right foods during cold and flu season is a must for immune support. Aim for:
- Citrus fruits - High in vitamin C to support white cells and collagen. Try oranges, grapefruit and tangerines.
- Leafy greens - Packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, K and folate plus zinc. Spinach, kale and collards are great options.
- Broccoli and bell peppers - Flooded with vitamins A and C promoting strong mucous membranes and cellular health.
- Garlic and onions - Support immune cell replication and contain compounds with antiviral properties.
- Ginger and turmeric - Powerful anti-inflammatory spices shown to reduce flu symptoms. Add to teas and meals.
- Bone broth - Sipping homemade bone broth supplies healing collagen, amino acids and minerals for tissue repair.
- Shellfish - Oysters, mussels and clams harbor high concentrations of zinc to boost immunity.
- Fermented foods - Live-culture yogurt, kefir, kimchi and kombucha nourish gut bacteria which impact immunity.
Reach for these immunity-boosting whole foods and avoid excess sugar, processed carbs and junk that impair defenses. A balanced diet keeps your body best equipped to mount a defense against pathogens.
Stay Hydrated and Active
Maintaining adequate hydration and activity levels during virus season has numerous benefits for immunity:
- Water - Drinking plenty of pure water keeps mucous membranes moist which trap and flush out germs.
- Exercise - Brisk walks, yoga or other moderate activity for 30 minutes boosts blood circulation which helps distribute infection-fighting cells throughout the body.
- Fresh air - Brief time playing, walking or working outdoors provides vitamin D from sunlight and helps clear lungs of pathogens.
- Mobility - Stretching, gently bouncing legs and moving throughout each day improves lymphatic drainage which clears toxins and dead cells from tissues.
- Less alcohol - Excess intake suppresses white blood cell response for several hours after drinking.
While rest is important when sick, routine hydration and movement keeps the immune system functioning optimally every day. Listen to your body and don't overexert when contagious illnesses prevail locally.
Reduce Germ Exposure Wisely
Avoiding contact with infected individuals is the surest way to dodge a virus. However, total isolation is unrealistic. When exposure can't be controlled, focus on reducing transmission risks in public settings:
- Distance - Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and anyone coughing or sneezing if possible.
- Gatherings - Weigh exposure risks when attending concerts, parties or crowded religious services.
- Elders - Limit contact with high-risk groups like the elderly or immunocompromised if infected.
- Public transit - Consider alternative commuting options during peak flu season if daily bus or train use is necessary.
- Office - Wipe phones, keyboards and mouse regularly, wash hands before eating at your desk.
- Shopping - Go during off hours if stores feel overcrowded to allow more space between customers.
- Travel - Carefully assess exposure risks versus importance when flying, taking cruises or vacations.
With wisdom and moderation, it's feasible to continue routine activities safely by minimizing opportunities for pathogens to spread directly between individuals. Be extra diligent with hygiene after potential exposures.