Does it ever feel like cold and flu season is, well, as reliable as the changing weather?
Flu activity typically peaks in the fall, winter, and spring.
The kids are in school, temperatures are dropping, and we're all spending more time indoors, in close (close) proximity to one another.
You may not be able to escape the grip of cold and flu season entirely, but there are ways you can support your body's health and give your immune system a fighting chance.
1. Eat Healthy Food
This one seems like a no brainer, but more often than not, October through January is a time to indulge.
Healthy eating often falls by the wayside in the midst of merriment.
Halloween candy is everywhere (who can resist the temptation?!), and Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year celebrations all seem to revolve around decadent —and not necessarily healthy— food and treats.
Unfortunately, that means our regular helpings of fruit, veggies, grains, and healthy proteins often get lost in the mix.
Now is the time when it's more important than ever to load up on foods rich in essential nutrients like zinc and Vitamin C.
Zinc is a powerhouse nutrient that helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. You can find it in nutrient-rich foods like:
- Red meat
- Grains such as brown rice and quinoa
- Dark chocolate (hallelujah!)
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that plays a role in immune function. You may think that a big glass of orange juice may be the best way to get your daily dose.
But did you know that bell peppers contain more Vitamin C than oranges?
Reach for plenty of fruits and vegetables this season, because you can get plenty of this immune-supporting vitamin from plant sources like:
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
- Kiwi fruit
- Brussels sprouts
A little meal prep and planning can go a long way toward eating healthy, even in the middle of the holiday season.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Are you getting your full 8 hours every night?
You know that sleep is good for your health in so many ways.
Unfortunately, the holiday season can have you rushing, doing, and going so much that your sleep suffers.
And just like succumbing to stress, not getting enough sleep can really challenge your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick.
Every time of year is the right time to make good sleep a priority, but maybe — just maybe — it's even more critical during fall and winter.
3. Wash Your Hands
It may be elementary, but the science is clear: Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to avoid getting sick and passing germs to others.
In case you were wondering, that hand sanitizer in your purse is a poor substitute for regular hand scrubbing. Research suggests there’s not much use for it outside of hospitals and doctor’s offices, anyway.
Skip the sanitizer and be sure to suds up those hands well and often, especially after:
- Cooking (especially if you’ve been handling raw meat)
- Using the bathroom
- Shaking hands
- Cleaning up
- Playing with pets (even Coco can carry her fair share of germs)
There’s no getting around it: Washing your hands is one of the first lines of defense when it comes to keeping your immune system strong.
4. Remain Active
When the weather turns chilly, hitting the gym isn’t as appealing as snuggling up by the fire or sharing festive drinks with your friends.
Plus, with so much going on — parties, holiday shopping, etc. — it might feel like you don’t even have the time.
But getting your sweat on three times a week or going for a 20 - 30 minute walk every day — maybe even taking Coco for a walk — can be the difference between staying cold-free and being bedridden for a few days.
Getting some activity may help flush your lungs of bacteria and improve your white-blood-cell count, keeping you healthier.
Make some time to get active: Go for a jog, lift at the gym, get to yoga.
Your immune system will thank you.
5. Bundle Up
You know how your grandma used to insist that you bundle up so you don’t get sick?
It turns out she may have been on to something.
A new study suggests that your immune system may not function as well as it could if your nose and upper body are cold.
We can’t think of a better excuse to break out all those cute scarves and oversized sweaters, or to pile one more down comforter on top of the bed and cozy up with a hot cup of tea.
6. Prioritize Self-Care
Life can get hectic. Stress is inevitable. Unfortunately, stress can wreak havoc on your immune system.
Getting some "you time" is a must to reduce stress and maintain good health.
Schedule it, if you have to. But make sure you're finding ways to unwind, relax, and destress, like:
- Take a bath
- Read a book
- Treat yourself to a spa day
- Go to the movies
- Have a date night
- Ask for help
- Go to bed early
7. Clean Deeply and Often
They may call it "spring cleaning," but we say a clean house is important all year round.
A good, deep cleaning can go a long way toward keeping yourself and your loved ones happy and healthy during cold and flu season.
The flu virus can live for up to 24 hours on hard surfaces in your home. Clean deeply and regularly during cold and flu season to banish bugs, taking extra care in spaces that don’t get used much — you never know what’s lurking under the couch or in that weird corner of the kitchen counter.
Make Your Health a Priority
You deserve to make your health a priority. Especially if you find yourself stretched thin and taking care of everyone else all the time, too. (Moms, we're looking at you.) Eat well, sleep well, find some time to relax, and keep those hands clean, and you may be able to avoid whatever cold-flu-virus that's going around.