First you hear a sneeze. Then you hear a sniffle. Before you know it, it seems like everyone around you is sick. As cold and flu season comes upon us, it's time to start thinking of ways to keep your immune system up.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that over 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with flu-related symptoms, and an estimated 36,000 die every year. According to Dr. Jon Tempte, chairman of the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the average American is more likely to die from the flu than from Ebola, which has no vaccination.
All strains of the flu have similar symptoms, and while cold and influenza symptoms are similar, the latter are more severe. These symptoms include: a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, body aches, fatigue, chills, nausea, vomiting, sore throat and a cough. So we've rounded up some helpful tips to help you avoid sick season as much as possible.
1. Get the flu shot at the right time
While some people are against vaccinations, getting a flu shot on a yearly basis is the best way to prevent the flu. The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older should get a flu shot to prevent themselves and others from getting sick.
Because the strains change and mutate each flu season, it's important to get a flu shot every year. You can get a flu shot through your primary care physician and pharmacies.
It takes two weeks for the antibodies in the flu shot that protect your body to fully develop, so the earlier you are vaccinated the better.
2. Hydrate & cut out the booze
If you are sick, make sure to hydrate by drinking water and sport drinks with electrolytes. Also drink plenty of tea with lemon and honey, which will give your immune system a boost.Those with sore throats should gargle with salt water at a 1:1 ratio.
Alcohol can dehydrate and affect the quality of sleep, so lose the booze when you feel a cold coming on.
3. Wash your hands
Though it seems obvious, washing your hands can be a lifesaver. Although it is not common, people can catch a cold or flu from touching a surface (like a doorknob) that has traces of the virus and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Using soap and hot water can help wash away the germs. Washing your hands thoroughly at least four times a day can decrease the chances of catching a cold or the flu.
4. Eat certain foods
Make sure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs for healthy functioning. Eat veggies like kale and broccoli, or add ingredients into a juice to get the recommended nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. For a healthy juice, combine apples, carrots, cucumbers, Swiss chard, kale, lemon and mint.
Boost your immune system by adding more protein into your diet. Focus on spreading your protein intake throughout the day, such as having eggs for breakfast, yogurt for a snack and fish for dinner.
5. Stress less
The more you stress, the harder it is for the body to fight off an infection. Practice meditating for a few minutes each day when you wake up to start your day or to unwind before bed. Yoga and Jin Shin Jyutsu, a Japanese light-touch energy therapy are also alternative ways to decrease stress and rid the body of negative energy.
Monthly massages can also increase circulation to supply more oxygen to the blood, which boosts the immune system.
6. Stay at home
Because the flu can spread so easily, avoid large crowds when you can (or carry hand sanitizer with you for that morning commute!). If someone coughs or sneezes by you, cover your mouth and nose since it takes a few minutes for droplets to settle, and move away if possible.
When you are feeling ill, stay home from work or school. This is one of the best ways to prevent spreading the virus to others. Over-the-counter pain medication can help battle aches and pains, so make sure you hit the drug store within the first two hours of symptoms.
7. Shake Sweat it off
Exercise can also help relieve stress. Take an aerobics class to dance away your worries if you are not a typically active person, or go for a run regularly to build an overall healthy body. Sweating eliminates toxins from the body, just be careful at the gym. Sweaty towels leave germs on surfaces, so clean equipment before and after use. Always bring a clean towel with you.
8. Protect your sense of smell
Stuffy or runny noses are symptoms of a cold or flu, so protect your sense of smell by using a daily nasal rinse with a bulb syringe to help keep your nasal passage clear. Mix iodide-free salt with 1 tsp of baking soda and 1 cup of cooled boiled water to create your own spray. Use this saline spray when you first notice cold symptoms and take hot showers to help further clear your nose.
9. Disinfect everything
Women should clean lipstick and other makeup tools with an alcohol wipe or makeup cleaner. Since everyone uses smartphones, disinfect with a sanitizing wipe since you are always swiping and putting your phone to your face. Avoid using public water fountains and instead bring your own water bottle to work. Don't grab railings on stairs if you can and use your own pen at the bank or doctors office.
People who sleep less than seven hours each night are three times more likely to catch a cold or the flu once they are exposed to germs compared to those who get the full eight hours. The immune system needs at least seven hours to sleep in order to stimulate the cells to protect against a cold. Try taking power naps or turn off screens early to get your beauty rest.
Be well this cold and flu season!