It’s cold and flu season and as always, prevention is better than cure. Here are five tips that will help you stay well all winter.
- Flu vaccine
Autumn is the time to get the flu shot. Consider the vaccine if you are at high risk of developing flu-related complications. The CDC recommends the flu shot for children over six months of age. It is particularly important for people over 65, pregnant women, health care workers, teachers or anyone at risk of infection or with a chronic respiratory illness (asthma or emphysema). For more information, talk to your doctor or nurse.
- Be hand conscious
As your grandmother would say: “Keep your hands off your face!” Touching surfaces or objects and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose will give you those germs that make you sick.
Keep your hands clean. Wash them with warm water and soap. What’s important is to briskly rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds and scrub between your fingers, under your nails, the back and top of your hands. Rinse them well and dry them well too because germs cling to moisture!
Be attentive to the “befores” and “afters”. Wash your hands before you prepare a meal or put on your contact lenses. Wash your hands after a handshake with someone who is sick or after you blow your nose or cough into your hands. And true, soap and water aren’t always available. So, wherever you may go, carry a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Eat well
Eat fewer processed foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Consume foods or supplements which contain probiotics. These can stop the growth of disease-causing bacteria and lower the risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, says Mike Gleeson, PhD.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that include Lactobacillus and can be found in yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and soft cheeses. Also, find ways to add raw garlic to your foods or salad dressings. Garlic or garlic supplements contain a compound called Allicin which helps fight viruses. Garlic supplements can cause side effects, so you may need to talk this over with your health care specialist.
- Boost your immune system
Manage your stress; get adequate sleep, get some sun and fresh air, meditate, eat well and keep exercising – healthy habits do optimize your immune function. If you have to get up early for work then go to bed early. And take a nap during the day.
Your immune system is also powered by protein and selenium, a trace mineral found in foods or supplements. Lean meats, tuna, cod, whole grains, Brazil nuts or eggs contain protein and selenium that can help fight off infections.
- Keep hydrated
Your body cells can’t perform well when you’re dehydrated. Drinking plenty of water flushes toxins out of your body and helps ward off infections. Drinking fluids keeps your mucous membranes moist and loosens secretions that cause infections. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water per day. Always drink when you exercise and keep a water bottle at your work desk. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake; these can dehydrate the body.
What will you do to fight off infections? How can you tell if an infection is viral or bacterial? For more information on colds and flus read here.