20 Tips to Stay Healthy During Flu Season
One in five Americans is likely to suffer from flu this year—and the cough, aches, fever and general misery can last up to two weeks. Read on for 20 tips that can keep you and your family healthy this winter.
- Get a flu shot. Sure, it's a no-brainer, but it's a biggie. The flu vaccine protects against three variations of the flu virus, and it's widely available—and usually covered by insurance. To help ward off the flu at work, encourage your employer to set up a flu shot schedule so staff can get theirs conveniently.
- Come packing. Bring a pen with you everywhere you go. It'll keep you from touching the "community pen" at the bank, the grocery store, the doctor's office … and sharing germs with every person who touched it before you. You can even use it to punch in your code at the ATM.
- Talk clean. Mobile phones are germ magnets. We lay them on counters, desks and tables and handle them all day long with our not-so-clean hands. Sanitize your phone often to keep germs away from your face and mouth, and opt for the speakerphone setting when possible.
- Treat your allergies. When allergies are out of control, the upper respiratory tract is already inflamed. This makes you a ready target for the flu. Keeping your head and chest free of allergy symptoms not only helps you feel better, but also strengthens your ability to fight germs.
- Forge a new routine. After arriving home from work, hop into a hot shower right away then change into clean clothes. It may sound like overkill, but shedding the germs you've collected in a day can keep you and your family healthier.
- Wash your hands (often). Another no-brainer, but prevention doesn't get any simpler than this! Wash your hands throughout the day with warm water and soap. Scrub around nails carefully, since germs can get trapped there. Be sure to stash alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse, briefcase and car so that you can sanitize on the run. Packaged wipes can also be a good option for wiping those germs off, and can be gentler for sensitive skin.
Host a freezer meal party to stock up on tasty and healthy dinners for winter. SAMPLE
- Drink hot tea. Drinking hot black or green tea with lemon and honey can help in more ways than one. Breathing in steam stimulates hair follicles in the nose to move out germs more efficiently. Plus, lemon thins mucus and honey is antibacterial. A simple teaspoon of honey is also known to soothe a sore throat.
- Hands off! No matter how often you wash them, it's best to keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes. And keep them away from food, too. Consider packing a lunch you can eat with a spoon or fork instead of a sandwich that you have to hold.
- Hydrate. Drink water constantly—at minimum, the recommended eight glasses a day. It flushes out toxins through the lymph system and keeps the lining of the nose moist, trapping dust, dirt and bacteria before they can travel to the lungs. Plus, studies show that those who drink less than three glasses of water a day are four times more likely to get the flu.
- Resolve to get more rest. It's your most reliable defense against any virus. Research shows that our bodies need seven to eight hours of sleep in order to stimulate an immune response strong enough to attack the flu. So rest up as often as you can. If you are battling a virus, propping yourself up with your head above the rest of your torso can help any fluids move down and out of your body faster, too.
- Sanitize, sanitize, then sanitize some more. Microwaves, printers, doorknobs, elevator buttons, phones and computer keypads get touched by a lot of people and accumulate lots of germs. If you work in an office with shared kitchens and bathrooms, it helps to keep cleaning wipes in a nearby cabinet so these surfaces can be wiped easily and often. Genius Tip: Use SignUpGenius to create an online sign up so that everyone in the office can share the burden.
- Break a sweat. Exercise helps the body get rid of toxins and germs along with keeping us fit. Plus getting that heart pumping strengthens the immune system. But how sick is too sick to work out? If you have chills, a cough or an elevated temperature, hold off on hitting the gym and rest up instead.
Organize a flu shot clinic with an online sign up. SAMPLE
- Flush it out. Doing a nasal rinse can flush out viruses and help clear secretions. You can buy nasal saline irrigation premade at the drugstore, or look online for a homemade recipe.
- Beef up. Research shows that diets too low in protein can deplete the immune system. Load up on healthy protein-rich foods throughout the day to keep your system strong. Beans, eggs and yogurt are great meatless options.
- Think zinc. Zinc boosts the immune system by increasing your production of white blood cells AND natural killer cells, both of which fight viral infections. The jury is still out on whether zinc can help treat flu symptoms, but it may be helpful as a preventive measure.
- Go holistic. Herbal remedies get mixed reviews from the medical community. But some health experts say echinacea and goldenseal can boost the immune system and fight off illness. And while the latest studies show vitamin C doesn't make a cold shorter or less severe, most experts agree that it can help ward off germs.
- Bring a barrier. Exercise is essential for a strong immune system, but gyms are crawling with germs. Instead of sitting directly on a mat or bench, lay your own clean towel down first. And clean any equipment that you have to touch—like free weights or bicycle handlebars—before and after you use it.
Organize a meal sign up for a family suffering from the flu. SAMPLE
Brooke Neal is a freelance writer, brand strategist & mom to three little boys.
- Get juicing. Most of us don't get the recommended nine servings of whole fruits and vegetables a day. So consider juicing to make up for it in concentrated form. Focus on kale, broccoli, apple, arugula, parsley, cucumber, carrots, Swiss chard, lemon and mint. Find quick and tasty recipes online.
- Explore alternatives. Some experts say the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture can boost energy and help increase production of T-cells, which destroy harmful bacteria and viruses in the body. Plus the side effects are minimal, so it could be worth a shot (or a stick!). As with any treatment option, always read up before committing.
- Massage it out. Getting a massage improves circulation, nourishing cells with added oxygen and blood, all of which boosts the immune system. It also promotes relaxation and relieves stress, making you less susceptible to viral infections.