Fall is finally here and with it comes the cooler weather, pumpkin spice lattes and the dreaded cold and flu season. Here are some tips for staying healthy over the next several months:
Optimize your immune system
The most effective way to prevent colds, the flu, and many other diseases, is with a healthy immune system. Our immune system has special cells and molecules that recognize and fight the viruses that cause the common cold and flu. The flu vaccine is not 100% effective for the flu, and does not prevent colds, which are caused by a completely different virus. In fact, last year the flu vaccine was only about 20% effective in preventing the flu. A healthy lifestyle can potentially cover the other 80%. A healthy balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and stress management are simple, yet incredibly effective ways that have been scientifically proven boost the immune system.
Use nasal saline rinses
The entry point for cold and flu viruses occurs primarily through the nasal passages. Use a Neti pot daily to rinse your nasal passages with saline solution to flush out viruses, preventing them from spreading throughout the respiratory tract.
Gargle with warm salt water
Gargling with warm salt water has been scientifically proven to prevent colds. Like saline nasal rinses, gargling with warm salt water daily can help prevent cold and flu viruses from replicating and progressing in the body.
The old wives tale of staying bundled up has some merit. While cold temperatures are not the direct cause of colds and the flu, scientists have found that exposure to cold air may decrease the local immune response in our nasal passages. One of the main reasons we catch colds during colder seasons is because many people spend time indoors, thus making it easier to be exposed to cold and flu viruses. If you do decide to get some fresh air, make sure to bundle up and keep your face and neck covered.
Take vitamin D
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation in children decreased the risk of contracting the flu. Homeopathic remedies such as probiotics, vitamin C and oscillococcinum may help, but studies have not yet shown definitive evidence for their use in preventing colds and the flu.
Drink Ginger Turmeric tea
In Ayurveda, colds and the flu are thoughts to be due to an imbalance of Vata and Kapha dosha. Turmeric and ginger can balance these doshas. In fact, both ginger and turmeric have been scientifically proven to strengthen the immune system and work against cold and flu viruses.
Cover your mouth
Cold and flu viruses are transmitted through air droplets, so there is some merit to covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, especially if you have symptoms.
Wash your hands
While air droplets transmit cold and flu viruses, you can still spread the virus with your hands. Since cold and flu symptoms may not appear for up to one day after being infected, it’s that much more important to wash your hands frequently. Also, avoid touching your face to prevent the cold and flu viruses from entering your nose.
Disinfect your home
This goes along with tip #8. Disinfect commonly touched places in your home, such as doorknobs and light switches.
Avoid contact with sick people
The influenza virus is contagious so make sure to limit your exposure to those who are infected. If you happen to be sick as well, stay home and get some rest!
Stay ahead of the cold and flu season!
These prevention strategies are worth a cold and flu- free fall and winter season for you and your family. Make sure to practice a healthy lifestyle all year round.
Feel free to share ways in which you have been able to prevent yourself from getting sick in the comments below!