9 Healthy Habits to Keep Cold & Flu at Bay
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Simple, Healthy Habits You Can Start Today
It’s still that time of year: cold weather, cozy nights, hot cocoa…and the dreaded seasonal plague. Okay, maybe it’s not the plague, but it can sure feel like it.
Cold and flu can strike at any time, but they’re particularly common during this time of year; and because they’re highly contagious, they can spread like wildfire. Whether it’s the stuffy-nose-sore-throat common cold or the fever-ridden influenza, you can hopefully avoid sickness by practicing the following good habits.
- Wash hands OFTEN! It’s a no-brainer; if you want to keep germs away, keep them off your hands. That includes washing before and after meals, after coughing or sneezing, after being outside for a while, and especially after traveling via public transit. If you don’t have access to soap and water, opt for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that kills infectious germs. Whatever you do, keep the face touching and eye rubbing to a minimum.
- Check your stress levels. Too much stress, especially for prolonged periods of time, can significantly lower your immune system—leaving you more susceptible to all kinds of illnesses. To help kick stress to the curb, find activities that help you relax and practice them often, like yoga, meditation, watching a favorite movie, listening to music, or going for a run. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of me time!
- Eat a rainbow diet. Fresh, colorful fruits and veggies are packed with essential nutrients that support your immune system, not to mention the overall wellbeing of your body. Also, make sure you limit your alcohol intake. (Sorry, but it’s for your own good!)
- Stay hydrated. This doesn’t mean soda or sugary juices. To stay properly hydrated, drink plain water, herbal tea, and modest amounts of all-natural bubbly water. A flavorful tip: If you find plain water dreadfully drab, you can liven it up with fresh fruit slices (e.g., lemon, lime, cucumber, cherries).
- Get enough sleep. Your body needs rest, period. But when you don’t sleep enough (7-9 hours1), you increase your risk of catching something. So, make sure you catch those Z’s tonight!
- Get some exercise. There’s no better way to help clear your body’s airways than physical movement. Similar to your body’s fighting infection with a fever, your body temperature rises during a workout and may help your body’s defense against bad bacteria. To top it off, exercise also slows down the release of stress hormones. Less stress equals better immunity.2
- Nix that smoking habit. It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health, but it’s particularly bad for your immune system. The chemicals contained in a cigarette, like tar and radioactive compounds, can hinder your ability to fight off infections and viruses.3,4 Just say no!
What if you’re already sick?
- Stay home so you don’t spread it! Not feeling well? Don’t argue with your body. Make sure you pay close attention to the signs and signals that indicate it’s time to take a day (or more) off from work or any other obligations. If coworkers or loved ones are sick, try to steer clear of their space so you don’t catch it too!
- See your healthcare practitioner. If you’re seriously down and out with no end in sight, do not hesitate to visit your healthcare practitioner. He or she has the knowledge and expertise to pinpoint the underlying problem—and help you get well again soon.
Don’t fear the flu. Even if it’s going around your office, these simple daily practices can make a world of difference—hopefully helping to stave off sickness and keep you going strong. Remember: Small, everyday choices can make a big impact. Stay well!
- National Sleep Foundation. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? SleepFoundation.org. https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need-0. Accessed March 1, 2018.
- National Institutes of Health. Exercise and immunity. Medicine Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm. Accessed March 1, 2018.
- Mehta H, Nazzal K. Cigarette smoking and innate immunity. Inflamm Res. 2008;57(11):497-503.
- Feifei Qiu, Chun-Ling Liang, Huazhen Liu, et al. Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: up and down or upside down? Oncotarget. 2017;8(1):268–284.