Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
A cold or the flu can strike anytime, but they do have a more active season.
For colds, that season usually coincides with the school calendar, starting in late August or early September, then increasing in the first few weeks and remaining high until March or April, when it goes down.
Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and March and can last as late as May.
The most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is simple: wash your hands. A common way to catch a cold is by rubbing your nose and eyes after you’ve come in contact with a contaminated surface. Think door knobs, light switches, shopping carts, or contact with another person. So, washing your hands frequently with warm water and soap is the best way to stop a cold or flu before it starts.
Other good health practices are not sharing cups or silverware, and cleaning commonly used surfaces like doorknobs, and faucets.Don’t forget to clean your cell phone, too.
Along with good hygiene, certain foods are known to boost your immune system. Try including some of these foods and vitamins with your meals and snacks.
Garlic may give your immune system a boost by increasing resistance to infection and stress. Its antioxidant properties goes after free radicals in the body.
Yogurt and other cultured milk products contain probiotics which contain beneficial bacteria that have shown potential immune-boosting benefits. Look for the “live active culture” seal, which indicates that probiotics have been added.
Also, check milk product labels for vitamin D. Early research suggests low levels of vitamin D may be linked to a seasonal increase in colds and flu and a higher incidence of respiratory infections.
I’m sure you have heard that taking vitamin C helps you feel better when you have a cold. It’s true—research suggests that taking high doses of vitamin C may help shorten the time you are sick by a day or more. Vitamin C acts as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory to help dry up a runny nose. It also helps your immune system find and destroy viruses. When you are sick, or under a lot of stress, it only increases your body’s need for vitamin C. When looking for a vitamin C supplement, get one that contains bioflavinoids’ antioxidants found in citrus fruits, tea, and other foods.
Zinc is one of the most critical minerals for overall immune function and has been shown to reduce the time you have a cold. Zinc is found in meat, chicken, peanuts and peanut butter. It’s also found in lozenges as a cold fighter. While taking it won’t help you prevent a cold, taking zinc lozenges every two hours within the first two days of a cold can decrease its duration.
Fresh ginger root can help you when you are sick by decreasing nausea and vomiting. The anti-inflammatory gingerols and shaogals in ginger root will help to relieve a sore throat quickly, and they also kill rhinoviruses, which cause colds in the first place. Drink three or more cups daily until you are well. You can also drink the same ginger tea to warm up on a very cold winter day. Make ginger tea by grating one ounce of fresh ginger in a pint of water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add lemon and honey to taste.
Chicken soup, long known as a cold remedy, is likely effective because it contains any number of the above foods and their accompanying vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The aroma and cozy warmth can’t hurt, either.
Healthy bodies have an easier time fighting off infection. Not only are washing hands, avoiding germs, and eating the right foods important, but a few more things can help, too.
Moderate physical activity also has positive effects on the immune system. Over time, this means catching fewer colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
Getting plenty of rest, decreasing stress and cutting back on unhealthy habits like smoking and over consuming of alcohol will also boost your immune system.
If you do come down with a cold or flu, stay home so you don’t get others sick. Use tissues when you sneeze or blow your nose, and wash your hands often. To feel better, drink lots of fluid, eat immune-boosting foods, and get plenty of rest. If symptoms worsen, or last longer than a few days, contact your doctor.