It's that time of the year again. The trees have lost their leaves, the temperature is dropping and the nights are getting longer. In North America, flu and cold viruses are most common during the winter months. Flu activity kicks up in October and may last as long as May. December to February is usually the peak season of each year for the cold and flu virus.
Spread the love, not the flu virus
The flu virus is spread via talking, sneezing and coughing. The most common way to catch the virus is through doorknobs, remote controls, phones or someone's hand. For children in daycare, the sharing of toys and the constant close proximity to each other is a very common way of sharing the flu virus.
Natural Flu/Cold Prevention Tips
There are a variety of simple steps that you can take to decrease the occurrence of the flu this season. I often inform patients that fall is a great time to start laying the foundation for a strong and healthy immune system that will withstand a nasty flu season.
Tip #1: Wash hands regularly. This is the time to kick up your personal hygiene game and make sure your hands are washed every time you come in from the outdoors, use the washroom or before you eat. In addition, avoid touching your face with your hands since this is an easy way to spread disease.
Tip #2: Nix the sugar and processed foods and opt for calorie dense nutritious foods. Reach for foods high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Foods that are high in Vitamin A, C, E, Selenium and Zinc are great for your immune system. These foods include sweet potato, carrots, peppers, broccoli, lentils, sesame seeds, Brazil nuts and grass fed beef.
Tip #3: Get enough sleep and maintain a regular sleep schedule. There is new emerging research showing a link between not enough sleep and an increased risk of catching a cold or flu. The more all-nighters you pull, the more likely you are to get sick and the less likely you are to shake it off as quickly. The recommended amount of sleep for most adults is 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep nightly.
Tip #4: Exercise regularly. One of the many perks of being physically active is increased immunity. Exercise has been shown to help boost the immune system by increasing cells that kill viruses and bacteria. To reap the health benefits of exercise, aim for 45 minutes of moderately intensive exercise most days of the week.
Tip #5: Manage your stress. When we are stressed, our body's ability to fight off infection decreases. This means that we are more likely to get sick more often. Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation and healthy social connections have all been shown to help decrease the negative effects of stress and boost the immune system.
Are there other lifestyle habits that you have found helpful in preventing the spread of the cold and flu virus during the winter months? Share your thoughts below.