These days, it’s more important than ever to take measures to ensure a healthy immune system. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent illness from putting you or your family members out of commission. Knowing the basics of cold and flu prevention — and what to do at first signs of the sniffles — can help keep sickness at bay.
Making sure your vaccines are up-to-date is an important first-line prevention strategy. While you can’t get vaccinated against the common cold, you can get an annual flu shot. This vaccine is specially formulated each year to protect against strains that researchers expect to be particularly prevalent for that season.
Oftentimes, the vaccine prevents infection with influenza. However, you may still get the flu — but with a shorter duration and less severity. If you do get sick despite being vaccinated, over the counter flu medicine can help.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Making healthy choices in your everyday life strengthens your immune system over time, which helps protect you from illness. Good lifestyle practices include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating a balanced, clean diet
- Being outside
- Keeping stress levels at bay
When your body is overly taxed with lack of sleep, processed foods, and stress, it’s more prone to inflammation. This weakens your immune system and increases your risk of infection. Lowering your overall inflammation levels allows your body to more properly spring into action and fight off infections.
Taking Your Vitamins
It’s important to get your vitamins through eating a balanced diet, full of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Do a dietary analysis and determine what areas may need support. For example, zinc offers immunity benefits and is found in meat and dairy. If you follow a vegan lifestyle, you may need to up your intake of legumes — also an excellent source of zinc — or add a supplement.
Vitamin D — also called the “sunshine vitamin” — can decrease the duration of a viral infection, provided you aren’t deficient. Since one way to get this vitamin is by being in the sun, you may need a supplement if winter weather is keeping you indoors. If you do get sick, adding vitamin C and homeopathic cold and flu medicine can aid in your recovery.
Practicing Good Hygiene
Washing or sanitizing your hands frequently is another proven way to stay healthier, especially during cold and flu season. When out in public, avoid touching your face as much as possible until you can wash your hands. This can prevent viruses from spreading from your hands to your body through your nose or mouth.
Staying Home When Sick
If you do sense sickness coming on, staying home from work or school prevents others from catching what you have. If everyone did this, it would go a long way in stopping the spread of germs. Also, keep in mind that overdoing it while your body is fighting a viral infection can worsen and prolong your symptoms.
You can’t always prevent illness entirely. However, taking these steps can help you manage sickness better and minimize the amount of time you spend not feeling well.