With widespread outbreaks and no cure in sight, there’s no denying it’s going to be a particularly nasty cold and flu season.
While over-the-counter treatments can bring some relief or help shorten the duration of symptoms, your best bet is to take a preventative approach to try to ward off bugs before they take hold.
Below are a few immunity-boosting tips to help stave off sickness this season:
1. Get a flu shot. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in defending your body from flu viruses. Although there are many different flu viruses circulating, the vaccine is designed to protect against the three that research suggests will be most common.
2. Wash your hands. One of the simplest yet most effective ways in which you can stop bugs from entering your body is by practicing the correct hand washing technique. Use warm water, plenty of soap and do it for about 20 seconds (Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice).
3. Mind your diet. Sugar can suppress the immune system, so cut back on post-holiday sweets and alcohol. Instead, load up on antioxidant- and vitamin-rich fruits and veggies, which help keep your immune system running strong.
4. Manage stress levels. Another immunity-killer is both chronic and daily stress, which will leave your body ill-equipped to fight infections. Decrease stress by taking time out for yourself, whether that’s practicing meditation, getting a massage or simply going for a walk.
5. Get ample rest. A tired body is one that’s also more prone to illness. Aim for a good stretch of uninterrupted sleep each night, ranging anywhere from seven to eight hours for most adults.
6. Break a sweat. The health benefits of exercise are endless, including increased circulation and blood flow, which helps keep your immune system oxygenated and strong – not to mention, it’s a terrific way to reduce stress (see above).
7. Keep well hydrated. Most of us need around half an ounce of non-caffeinated fluids for each pound of body weight daily to maintain proper hydration. This helps detox the body, carry nutrients to cell and keep mucous membranes moist, which lessens the likelihood of cold or flu bugs invading your nose or lungs.
8. Look on the bright side. Do yourself a favor, and lighten up. Scientific evidence has shown that laughter not only helps people breathe easier, but it also massages the heart and vital organs and may increase the release of disease-fighting cells of the immune system.