What you can do to fend off the cold and flu

No matter what holiday you’re celebrating this December, nobody has time to be sick. Fortunately, you can take steps to help keep common winter illnesses away.

First, let’s take a look at what makes colds and the flu more common during the winter than at other times of the year. You might think it’s the cold weather — and, in a way, you’re right. Because of the cold weather, we’re forced to spend more time indoors, which brings us into close quarters with other people, making it easier to spread respiratory illnesses from person to person.

With that fact in mind, is illness just a given? It doesn’t have to be. Read on for some steps you can take to keep illness at bay this winter.

  1. Get your flu shot. We know — you’ve already heard this one. But here’s your reminder that thousands of Americans end up hospitalized each year because of the flu. If you haven’t already been vaccinated this year, it isn’t too late. Get your flu shot ASAP to help prevent the flu. Because who wants fever, chills and body aches?!
  2. Avoid shaking hands. Respiratory illnesses such as the cold and flu pass easily from person to person. Who knows whether the person you’re greeting has an illness, or has come in contact with germs? If the practice is a regular part of your work life, make sure that each time you shake hands, you wash your hands. Even if you aren’t shaking hands, wash your hands routinely throughout the day.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. You may think sleep is expendable during the holiday season, but it’s actually even more important than usual. When your body is tasked with fending off illness every day, it needs all the sleep it can get. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. Try to stick as close to your usual bedtime routine as possible even during the holidays.
  4. Get your workout on. Regular physical activity benefits the body in a variety of ways — protecting both physical and mental health. It’ll help lower your blood pressure, manage your weight and reduce your stress levels. But it also has specific benefits when it comes to fending off illness. Exercise helps improve circulation and strengthens the immune system: key parts of staying cold- and flu-free.
  5. Eat up. Everyone should aim to eat a diet filled with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. But if you want to give your immune system an extra shot of goodness, add foods containing vitamin C (citrus fruits, spinach, bell peppers), vitamin E (broccoli, spinach, almonds, peanuts), vitamin B6 (bananas, chicken, tuna, potatoes), vitamin A (carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin), vitamin D (fatty fish, fortified foods), and zinc (yogurt, oysters, chickpeas).
  6. Don’t touch your face. When you touch something and pick up germs, touching your eyes, mouth or nose with your hands can spread the germs and cause illness. In fact, that’s one of the most common ways for germs to enter the body.
  7. Try to stay away from sick people. We know: This isn’t always possible. But, if you can, steer clear of people who are sick. If you can’t, use sanitizing wipes on commonly touched areas (like doorknobs, phones and light switches) and wash your hands often. If you’re the one who’s sick, stay home.

Already under the weather? A doctor can diagnose the cause of your symptoms and offer help to ease them. Find a doctor here.