10 Ways to Avoid Cold and Flu This Winter
Many experts are calling this year’s flu season one of the worst in recent memory, and with at least 37 children dead from this season’s A-H3N2 strain, it is quite likely they are right. There are many contributing factors that make this strain particularly virulent, but one major factor appears to be this strain’s ability to penetrate every region in the U.S. Unlike other years, this flu season also began earlier—in November—rather than in January as it typically does. With weeks still to go in this deadly outbreak, the ultimate death toll could be staggering, so take every precaution to keep yourself and your family safe.
- Get a flu shot—although months have passed, this particular flu strain could remain in the population for many more months. If you didn’t get a flu shot last year, you can still protect yourself for the remaining flu season by getting a flu shot. Although this year’s flu shot is only about 30 percent effective, it is still an important defense against this deadly disease.
- Drink tea—Even if you are a coffee person, you might want to switch to tea, at least through the remaining colder months. Hot tea stimulates the hair follicles in your nasal passages, and these follicles help remove germs from your body. Also consider adding lemon and honey to your drink, as honey is an antibacterial and lemon helps thin mucus, one of the primary mechanisms for removing germs.
- Get a good night’s rest—Make time in your busy schedule to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Sleep is one of the most important ways that we maintain good health, which is even more vital during a cold and flu season. A full night of rest also promotes efficacy of our immune system by supercharging our “natural killer cells”, one of the most critical lines of defense against viral and bacterial invaders.
- Exhale around germs—In the course of your day, you will likely encounter dozens of people, many of whom could be infected with the flu virus. If you encounter someone who is sneezing or coughing, then gently exhale while you are within six to ten feet of them. This will help prevent the inhalation of flu germs.
- Clean commonly touched surfaces—Studies show that flu germs can survive up to 24 hours on hard surfaces, so it is important to keep your work area, kitchen and bathroom as sanitary as possible. If you have to touch doorknobs or other public surfaces, take the time to wash your hands with soap and water prior to touching any part of your face. The flu virus is not that resilient, so any kind of soap should be effective in removing it. Also keep in mind, that you should disinfect any electronic devices like a phone or tablet that you interact with regularly.
- Consume protein—Research has proven that the human immune system is highly dependent on protein to function effectively. To keep your immune system operating at peak efficiency, maintain a diet that is high in protein. This should include meat, eggs, yogurt and fish.
- Exercise regularly—It can be difficult to hit the gym or run a few miles during the winter months, but you should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week to prevent the flu. Not only does exercise help your immune system function properly, but this vigorous physical exertion improves circulation, allowing immunocytes to find and attack foreign germs more quickly. One study by the London School of Hygiene suggests that 100 fewer cases of flu per 1,000 persons would occur if people exercised regularly.
- Stop smoking—You probably already know tobacco use is bad for your health, but it also compromises your immune system in a number of ways that make you more susceptible to cold and flu. Furthermore, smokers have a weakened immune system that makes it more difficult to recover from the cold and flu. Smoking also inflames your respiratory passages and inhibits mucus flow, both essential to fighting off illness. This can often produce much more virulent symptoms that can lead to hospitalization or, even, death. That is why you should do your best to stop smoking as soon as possible. There are a variety of products on the market that can help you quit smoking, but if you want reliable advice, consult your physician.
- Enjoy life—There is considerable evidence that people with more positive mental health avoid illnesses like the cold and flu. It may not seem related, but the more you engage in emotionally satisfying activities like playing with a pet or spending time with your loved ones, the less likely you are to get sick.
- Supplements—You may think you get enough of your necessary nutrients from three meals a day, but studies show that most people could benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements. This is especially true during cold and flu season, when your immune system is working overtime to protect you. Two specific supplements you should include are echinacea and zinc. Echinacea has proven effective preventing flu infection, and taking zinc may diminish the potency of symptoms as well as shorten the time you are ill.
Every year, influenza kills almost 24,000 people a year, and some years, it can be much more than that. Although the majority of people killed are elderly, very young or immune-compromised, this is a deadly infection that you should take very seriously. You may have had a cold or flu dozens of times before, but the next time you get sick, could be much more severe than the previous. The flu virus mutates rapidly, so the next germ you encounter may be much more dangerous than you expect.
To learn more about protecting yourself and your family from the cold and flu, please visit Boost Health Insurance.
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