Perhaps the coronavirus gets all the press, but the flu carries off a considerable number of people each year. Plus, it can leave you feeling miserable. When it comes to seasonal illnesses, the old canard about an ounce of prevention holds.
Fortunately, you can do much to decrease your chances of contracting cold and flu germs. You don’t have to live in a bubble or wear a mask and gloves everywhere, either. The following seven tips will help keep you feeling in ship shape no matter the season.
1. Wash Your Hands
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but it bears repeating. If you want to stay healthier this winter, lather up those hands often. It’s not enough to give them a cursory rinse after using the restroom. To wash your hands properly, you need to suds up for at least 20 seconds — try mentally singing “Happy Birthday” twice to measure time.
You can use hand sanitizer when water and soap aren’t available. However, this method of hand-cleansing also requires proper technique. If you squirt on a dollop, then wipe your hands on your pants, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Rub it in until it thoroughly evaporates — taking the nasties with it.
2. Change Your Filters
If you don’t have central air in your home, it’s easy to grow lazy about changing your filters during the warmer season. However, indoor air quality is among the Environmental Protection Agency’s top three health concerns — so get back in the habit. A wise idea is swapping them out when you pay your rent or mortgage.
You can also improve the quality of your indoor air by adding plants. While you don’t want to let them gather allergy-causing dust, they can remove toxins. A pioneering study by NASA on creating a habitable atmosphere in space discovered that house plants absorb substances like benzene and formaldehyde when they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
3. Find a New Greeting
Did you ever notice how doctors rarely shake their patients’ hands? That’s because they work with a high-risk population — and they realize germs spread through direct contact. Take a tip from the M.D. set and find a new way to greet colleagues and acquaintances. You can always wave or nod, especially if the other party has the sniffles.
4. Eat Healthy, Plant-Based Meals
Yes, you can find a supplement for any nutritional need you have nowadays. However, your body doesn’t always absorb them as efficiently as they do the vitamins and minerals found in foods. Plus, excessive consumption of some supplements can prove harmful or even life-threatening, an unnecessary risk. While most are safe when taken as directed if you want to supercharge your immunity, turn to nature’s source.
Instead, increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables in every hue to ensure you’re getting a full array of phytonutrients. Strive to fill half of your plate with veggies at every meal, balancing the rest with healthy grains and protein. If the weather is frightful, soups are an ideal way to get your servings in while warming your tummy.
5. Get Regular Exercise
Unfortunately, exercise won’t make your cold any shorter if you have one — but it can help you stave one off. Working out increases respiration, potentially letting you blow any germs right out of your nose. Plus, if you stay well-hydrated, a workout can help break up congestion.
Some theorize that the rise in body temperature during and immediately after exercise can kill germs, too. Plus, activity slows down the release of stress hormones, an excess of which can leave you feeling run down.
6. Try Aromatherapy
Your nasal passages are your first line of defense against germs. However, dry, indoor air combined with outdoor wind can dehydrate your mucus membranes. Try adding an aromatherapy humidifier to your work desk, and purchase one for home use, too. The additional moisture amps up your body’s natural defense mechanism. Additionally, practitioners theorize that particular scents, such as eucalyptus, activate the regions of the brain associated with immune system function. Since these oils smell better than your colleague’s reheated salmon, why not give them a try?
7. Get Enough Sleep
It’s challenging to stave off germs when you’re exhausted. Strive to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night, Keep electronics out of the bedroom to eliminate blue light and distractions. If you live in an urban area, invest in window coverings that let you shut out flashing neons. A white noise machine can help eradicate sounds from third-shift roommates or your partner’s snoring, and lavender pillow spray can help ease you into dreamland on a scented cloud.
Prevent Colds and the Flu With These Tips
You don’t have to accept getting sick during the winter as inevitable. By following the precautions above, you can navigate the remainder of the cold and flu season with nary a sniffle.