When fall comes around, it isn’t just time to celebrate pumpkin spice lattes, Halloween, and the holiday season, it is also when you should be aware of the risk of getting illnesses like the cold and flu. It is both cold and flu season, putting you and your family members at risk of being ill for days or weeks at a time. This report is going to guide you through some easy and natural ways to prevent getting the cold and flu, so you can truly enjoy the fall and winter seasons.
Before talking about the different ways you can prevent the cold and flu with healthy habits and some lifestyle changes, let’s look at the difference between the cold and the flu.
The common cold is a type of viral infection you get in your upper respiratory tract. You might get more of a head cold, a chest cold, or a combination of both. With the cold, it is generally less of a health risk than the flu, though you can often feel just as miserable.
The cold often represents with symptoms like:
The common cold usually lasts a little less time than the flu, where you can bet better in about a week.
The flu is more of a serious illness, and therefore often requires medical intervention. The flu, also called influenza, is a type of respiratory illness caused by either the A or B influenza virus. This can occur in the fall, but it is actually more of a winter and spring illness. However, it is unique in that you might be able to prevent it by getting the flu shot before flu season officially arrives.
1. Develop Daily Healthy Habits
When you are trying to prevent illnesses like the cold and flu, you should first look at your daily habits. There are many small things that seem insignificant, but can actually make a large impact in your overall health. These daily habits don’t always boost your immune system, but they stop the spread of germs, hopefully in time to prevent you from catching your daughter’s cold she brought home from school, or the flu that is going around at work.
Wash Your Hands Regularly
You guessed it – the first daily healthy habit that can help you prevent the cold and flu is washing your hands. This is often how germs spread, as you might touch a surface with cold or flu germs, then innocently touch your mouth or nose. Germs spread very easily, even when you don’t realize it. However, by doing something as simple as washing your hands more often, especially in the workplace, you can prevent the spread of germs.
Tips for Washing Your Hands More Often
Are you finding it difficult to wash your hands frequently throughout the day? Here are a few tips:
Wash your hands every time you are in a bathroom, even if you have not used the restroom. Every time you touch that knob on the bathroom door or any bathroom surfaces, you might be subjecting yourself to germs left behind by someone who is ill.
Wash your hands when you leave for and go to lunch. A quick and easy way to get in an extra hands washing in during a workday is to wash your hands when you are leaving for lunch. Before you walk out of the building, head to the bathroom or break room and wash your hands. This is also a good reminder at home, by washing your hands before each meal.
Wash your hands when you get home. Whether you were picking your kids up from school, running errands, or returning from work, washing your hands whenever you get home is another great opportunity to get rid of excess germs you might be carrying around.
Stop Using Your Hands So Much
This is a habit people don’t often realize they are doing, and it is not only bad for illness, but for your skin and hair as well. If you tend to touch your face, eyes, and mouth often, you are subjecting yourself to a higher risk of spreading germs before you even get the chance to wash your hands of those germs. Try to stop the habit of mindlessly touching your mouth or face.
Another way you can avoid using your hands so much is by not using your hands to cover a cough or sneeze. Try to keep tissue near you when you have to sneeze or cough, then throw it away immediately instead of leaving it next to you.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise is amazing for your overall health and fitness, but that isn’t the only benefit. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can also be beneficial for your immune system. With regular exercise, your heart is pumping and you are improving the blood flow through your entire body. This can actually boost the cells in your body that kill viruses like the cold and flu. Start sneaking in a little more exercise throughout the week.
2. Avoid These Unhealthy Habits
Not only is it important to develop these healthy daily habits in order to prevent illnesses like the cold and influenza (flu), but you also need to know the unhealthy habits that might be causing you harm. You are probably aware of the dangers of habits like drinking and smoking, but what you might not know is how it can impact your immune system. Here are some bad habits to try and cut back on right now:
The first bad habit that might be increasing your risk for getting the flu or common cold is smoking. This isn’t just bad for your overall health and especially your lungs, but it can also affect your immune system. People who smoke tend to have a weaker immunes system, which means you can’t fight off infections and viruses as easily. This can increase your risk for getting the flu or even pneumonia if you are in contact with the influenza virus.
Try to cut back on smoking at least, even if you can’t quit cold turkey. Talk to your doctor about different smoking cessation methods, whether you try meditation, the patch, or the other methods now available.
Yes, you guessed it – it is also time to cut back on drinking. This doesn’t mean you can never have a glass of wine or cocktail again, but it is best that you cut back if you tend to drink heavily. Alcohol can also negatively affect your immune system, to where your ability to fight off infections is not as sufficient. Alcohol may also cause dehydration, which is not good for the cold or flu, but for general wellness either.
Consuming Unhealthy Food
The food you eat, as mentioned in the previous section, also makes a big difference. Not just in making sure you consume healthier foods, but avoiding the unhealthy options as well. Take a look at your diet and examine where you can cut out bad food to replace it with good. The reason this is important is because you might not getting enough nutrients if you are not eating the right foods.
Sure, a donut might be just as filling to you for breakfast as a bowl of oatmeal with berries, but it has almost no vitamins in it. It is better to choose more nutrient-dense foods throughout the day. Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, lean protein, and reduced dairy products.
3. Focus on Cleanliness
Now that you know about those daily habits for your own personal health, it is time to control your surroundings. In many cases, it is not when you come into contact with other people when you catch the cold or flu virus from them, but from touching the same surroundings as them. Washing your hands often can definitely keep germs away, but don’t forget about your environment as well.
Here are some tips for ensuring you are keeping your environment clean and reducing the risk of germs being spread at home and in the workplace:
Use antibacterial wipes on all surfaces – This is probably the simplest way to control germs in your home and in the workplace. Keep antibacterial wipes handy, and wipe down surfaces regularly. This includes the desks, phones, door handles, bathroom and break room surfaces, countertops, and any tools people are using daily.
Encourage employees to wash their hands – In the workplace, put up signs reminding employees to always wash their hands. Not just after using the restroom, but whenever they are near a sink, whether they are done with their lunch, or they are just using the bathroom for cosmetic purposes.
Make tissues readily available – It is always good to have ample amounts of tissue throughout your home and work, so that nobody is coughing or sneezing without them handy. Also make sure they are disposing them in the trash cans immediately after using them.
Focus on housekeeping – In your home, cleaning a little more often during the cold and flu season is never a bad idea. This allows you to ensure you are doing your best at getting rid of the extra germs.
4. Increase Your Vitamin Intake
You might already know that you need to follow a healthy diet when you want to keep away illnesses, but don’t forget about the specific vitamins and minerals that are essential to boosting your immune system. Try your best to increase the following vitamins if you want to prevent the cold, influenza virus, and other seasonal illnesses:
The first supplement you should get plenty of in order to prevent these illnesses is zinc. Zinc is a trace element found in many healthy foods, but you can also take it as an additional supplement. When you have enough zinc in your system during cold and flu season, you can actually allow your body’s cells to get in the way of viruses infecting them, thus boosting your immunities naturally.
Some foods that are a good source of zinc are:
Lean protein like chicken and pork
If you can add these types of foods to your diet, you have a great chance at preventing illnesses with more zinc in your body.
This is probably going to come as no surprise to you, as vitamin C is often the highest recommended nutrient for people with a cold or flu. However, it can also help to prevent the cold and similar illnesses as long as you focus on nutritious foods with this vitamin.
So, why vitamin C? Because it is wonderful for your immune system. Many people who get sick easily do so not just because they are in frequent contact with people who have a cold, but because they don’t have enough nutrients to boost their immune system naturally. The good news is that it is incredibly easy to get more vitamin C.
If you prefer, you can take a vitamin C supplement or a multi-vitamin with enough C in it. There are also plenty of foods with this vitamin in it, like:
Herbs & Spices
Aside from vitamins you get from foods, don’t forget about nutritious herbs and spices that contain natural antiviral and antibiotic properties. These include:
As you can see, it is easy to prevent the cold and flu naturally with simple and healthy lifestyle changes.
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Lisa Ann de Garcia, MA, MEd.