T’is the season … Cold and flu season, that is! With fall comes the prime time for a flu shot, as cold and flu season begins. Medical professionals recommend getting your flu shot by mid-October, in order to be prepared for the inevitable influx of cold and flu illnesses that last anywhere from October to May!
In addition to the flu vaccine, there are several things you can do to help prevent cold and flu from sidelining you this season. From simple daily routines to what you should eat, the following are ten tips to help protect you and your family this season …
Build your Immune System Naturally
It is important for your health to eat nutritious, wholesome food year round. But during cold and flu season, it is more important than ever to ensure that you include immunity boosting foods in your daily diet. Some foods that are rich in nutrients with an aim to ward off illness include:
- Citrus fruits: Vitamin C rich fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits and lemons, are known to contain powerful antioxidants, which help to keep your immune system strong. One of the most powerful of these is the antioxidant quercetin, which has been shown to prevent the spread of rhinovirus – the most common cause of the cold.
- Garlic: Garlic contains sulphur compounds which help to fight off disease. Garlic also contains antimicrobial and antiviral properties which can help to keep a cold at bay. This is an easy ingredient to add to many meals throughout the colder months.
- Chicken noodle soup: This soup contains several healthy nutrients, including onions, carrots, garlic and chicken, which is a great source of carnosine – an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that prevents viral infections from replicating and spreading inside cells. Eating hot soups can also help to loosen mucus, subsequently alleviating congestion and a sore throat.
- Tomato soup: High in vitamin C, tomato soup is another excellent choice to alleviate symptoms associated with a cold or flu.
- Cranberries: Cranberries and cranberry juice are high in antiviral properties, vitamin C and the flavonoid quercetin. In a recent study from the University of Florida, researchers found that subjects who drank cranberry juice reported fewer cold-like illnesses than those who did not.
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is rich in the phytochemical theobromine, which researchers have found more effective than codeine in relieving a nagging cough. Theobromine works by blocking the nerve reaction that causes the cough reflex.
Eating healthily can be complimented by drinking healthily too. There are many different kinds of herbal teas that can keep colds and flu at bay this season. Green tea, chamomile tea (proven to help increase antibacterial activity) and Echinacea (with strong antioxidant and antiviral properties), to name a few, are excellent choices in place of traditional tea or coffee this winter. Keeping yourself hydrated is key while trying to stay healthy. Drinking plenty of water is just as important in the winter as it is during the hot summer months.
- Ginseng: Research suggests that by taking North American Ginseng throughout the cold and flu season, you can lessen your symptoms when you get sick, and that this herb can help to prevent illness altogether.
- Zinc: Zinc has been proven to help speed up recovery time from colds and flu. It is important to start taking zinc promptly after you start to feel symptoms of being sick.
- Probiotics: When taken regularly, probiotics can help to reduce the regularity of upper-respiratory tract infections. They are also proven to help synchronize immune function.
- Oil of Oregano: If you can handle the strong flavor, oil of oregano is a valuable addition to any cold and flu prevention routine. This oil contains carvacrol, a powerful antioxidant with antimicrobial properties. But as with all essential oil usage, you are best to consult a medical professional before starting any kind of regime.
Wash your hands, and often! Handwashing is scientifically proven to be one of the simplest ways to protect yourself against germs that can cause cold and flu. Be sure to wash your hands properly, in between all fingers, and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds. Carrying around hand sanitizer at this time of year is always a good idea too. Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially while you are out and exposed to more germs. Research shows that maintaining your oral health is also a key component of your overall health. There have been direct links found between oral disease and heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illnesses, the latter of which can greatly impact a cold or flu. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day, followed by flossing, within thirty minutes after meals.
Getting enough sleep is paramount to your overall health, most especially that of your immune system. Science proves that those who sleep adequately have a much higher resistance to the cold and flu virus than those who do not make sleep a priority. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression, increases in mood swings and weight gain, all of which affect your immune health. If you cannot get enough sleep at night, naps are also a great way to keep your immunity strong, provided you nap no longer than 30 minutes at a time, otherwise you are interfering with a good nights’ sleep later on.
Despite the weather, it is important to remain active during the colder fall and winter months. Maintaining your cardiovascular health will support your immune health.
Keeping active also does wonders for your mental health, warding off stress and providing an outlet for anxiety and frustration. There is a proven connection between chronic stress and physical illness. Exercise, as well as meditation, has a wide array of benefits, including reducing inflammation and through increased circulation, both of which help to fight the common cold. On days when time is more limited, and a full-body workout is not possible, simply stretching for a few minutes in the morning and in the evening can make a big difference.
Reduce Consumption of Sugar and Alcohol
Cutting back on refined sugar is always a good health practice, but most especially during the winter months. Consuming 75-100 grams of refined sugar, which is the equivalent of two cans of pop, reduces your body’s ability to fight off viruses and significantly lowers your body’s immune efficiency. Alcohol is high in sugar as well and is best avoided while trying to maintain maximum immunity. New research suggests that drinking alcohol can harm dentric cells, a key regulator of the immune system. For this reason, those who drink more often can be more susceptible to viral infections, which is why vaccines are less effective for those who have an addiction to alcohol.
Some of the best ways to keep healthy come down to common sense: Remember to wash your hands, remember to sneeze into your sleeve, wash your hands after you blow your nose, try not to touch public door handles and railings, wipe down your shopping cart handle with a wipe before you use it, or use sanitizer after you use one, clean surfaces in your home and office with antibacterial wipes often, don’t put your purse on the floor anywhere … be mindful of where germs lurk and do your best to avoid them.
Quitting smoking is the best choice for your health, regardless of time of year. But exposure to smoke weakens the immune system, dries out nasal passages and harms the tiny hairs in your nose that are responsible for sweeping cold and flu viruses away from your respiratory system.
Get the Flu Shot
Last but definitely the most important way in which you can protect yourself against the flu: Get your flu shot as soon as possible! Medical experts recommend getting the flu shot in early fall, in order to give your body time to produce the required antibodies to fight off influenza. The earlier you protect yourself, the greater your level of protection. But it is never too late during the season. You can read about what you need to know for this year’s flu season here.
To request your free quote to arrange your workplace flu shot clinic, contact Midland Health today.
Callum Palmer says
Sometimes, the best care is preventative care. Seeing that it’s almost winter time, it’s bound to happen where I’ll get a cold or something. As you said here, building our immune system naturally would be a good thing to do. Citrus fruits and soup is something that I’ll have to look into soon.
Midland Health says
Thank you Callum. Prevention is always the best, first defense against colds and flu. We are glad you got some take-aways from our article!