How to Beat Cold and Flu Season
Your mother always told you to “Wear your jacket or you’ll catch a cold”… but is it true? Most researchers agree that a clear link between being cold and catching a cold is yet to be discovered. So what can you do to stay healthy during cold and flu season? A lot more than you probably think!
It’s important to remember that the immune system is, well, a system. It’s a lot of different parts that have to work together to keep you healthy and living at your best. From sleep to socializing, some small changes can help you stay sniffle-free.
Wash Your Hands!
Unlike various strains of viruses that take an airborne route into your body, the common cold prefers to travel from your hands to your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs can live up to 3 hours, even on non-porous surfaces (think a shopping cart, your coffee cup, and your laptop)!
Studies show that we touch our faces a whopping 400+ times per day! If your hands aren’t clean each and every time you reach up to scratch your sniffer, you’re much more likely to catch a cold. We all know that public restrooms are filthy, but there are much more common items you come into contact with that are just as germ-ridden! Here are the top 6:
- Your washing machine
- Your computer keyboard
- Your mobile phone
- Your mouth
Here’s a really amusing article about why you should be disinfecting your hands every time you touch any of these items
Washing your hands is the #1 defense system against getting a cold. It doesn’t boost your immune system, but it prevents it from having to fight at all.
Get into bed
…and not just for the sleep! Now don’t get me wrong, sleep is really important for keeping your immune system running on all cylinders. In fact, one study published in the January 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine, found that people who slept fewer than seven hours a night were three times more likely to develop a cold when exposed to a rhinovirus compared to those who slept eight or more hours a night.
And everyone knows that sleep is important to have a healthy life, but let’s face it, sleep isn’t the only thing you can do in bed to prevent a cold. A study done atWilkes-BarreUniversityin Pennsylvania (US) shows that regular lovemaking actually reduces your chances of catching a cold by increasing the germ-fighting compounds in your saliva.
In addition to the chemical boost, frequent sex in a long-term relationship provides other benefits that naturally go along with a healthy immune defense – relaxation, reduced stress levels, and social support. Whether you’re just feeling frisky or you’re feeling a cold coming on, hop into bed to give your anti-germ defenses a jumpstart!
Drink More Water than You Think You Should
And tea and juice and clear broth. Fluids help your body maintain its basic functions and give you higher energy levels (think about that next time you go for a mid-afternoon coffee). It also helps the body heal from a cold by loosening congestion and preventing dehydration. According to the Mayo Clinic, the “8 glasses of water per day” mark isn’t exactly accurate. Men typically need about 13 glasses of water, and women usually 9. If you’re traveling somewhere warm or you’re working out, you’ll need to up your intake even more!
Think about what happens when you finally remember to water your houseplant after 4 days. That’s your body – crying for water.
Oh, and alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated sodas only make dehydration worse, so if you’re going to have them, you’re going to need to up your agua intake as well.
Change How You Eat…or Drink… or Exercise… or…
Hundreds of studies show that an overall healthy lifestyle is the BEST immune system booster around. Sometimes people find these easy choices difficult because of their social groups or significant others. Let’s be honest: if your girlfriend doesn’t love you because you’re living a healthier life, she’s probably not a great girlfriend. Here’s some easy advice that you already know you should be following:
Don’t smoke, ever. Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Control your blood pressure and reduce stress in your life. If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation – never binge. Get adequate sleep. Wash your hands frequently and cook meats thoroughly. Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.
I like to think of it as “what would I change if I found out I had cancer”. Not pleasant, I’ll grant you, but why wait until you’re sick to fix it? Each of these healthy-living strategies is really easy, and they can be done by anyone. Quit procrastinating and make health a priority!
Take Your Vitamins (but Be Skeptical!)
In today’s world more and more people are seeing signs of malnutrition, even though they’re eating 3 squares a day. Lack of energy, breathlessness, poor skin tone, increased irritability, and decreased concentration all rank high on the malnutrition list. Let’s face it – it’s faster, and often cheaper, to make poor food choices. After all, the good quality, lean sausages cost nearly 5 times as much as the cheap, fatty ones. If you only have an hour to eat lunch, you’re much more likely to eat out than to cook your own lunch, and many jobs don’t even have an option for real cooking in a breakroom (the microwave does NOT count).
Thus, it’s essential that we get the nutrition we need from other sources, and the options for supplementing your diet with vitamins, minerals, oils, and compounds can be dizzying, Fortunately there are some simple steps to finding good quality products that do what they say they will. Here’s some advice when you’re trying to make sense of the vitamin aisle.
- Always use whole-food supplements. These are supplements that come from living sources, like plants. It’s easy to find out if your supplements are synthetically created in a laboratory somewhere or if they come from real live plants – just call the manufacturer. Synthetic vitamins tend to be less expensive, but are shown to have almost no significant value whatsoever.
- More expensive doesn’t mean higher quality. While many high-quality supplements are indeed more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, you should shop around to find a great supplement in your budget.
- You need more than a multi. Multivitamin/Multimineral supplements are great, but chances are your body needs something else. Everybody can benefit from these basic supplements:
Fish Oil (from a safe source!)
My favorite vitamins come from Nutrilite, whose parent company is Amway. They were the original creators of vitamins and you can even take tours of their organic farms and factories! I’m a sucker for transparency. The downside is that unless your next door neighbor is an Amway rep, you’ll have to order them online. I’m a sucker for transparency.
In terms of cold prevention, here are some immune-boosting vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
You can check out why they’re so powerful here.
Even though these particular vitamins and minerals are proven to help, each person’s immune system is unique, and therefore the supplements and quantities that work for one person might not be the same for you. A very high quality daily multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement will include all of the listed immune boosters.
While you should always steer clear of people who are experiencing illness, studies show that people who maintain an active social life are twice as likely to avoid colds. Although we don’t yet know exactly why, one study suggests that it could be due to the decrease in stress levels when we socialize.
So there you have it. In essence, there’s no magic bullet, just healthy living every day. There’s a wonderful book out called “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson that has helped me understand that each and every choice I make throughout the day – cheeseburger or salad, water or energy drink, swallow vitamins or roll my eyes at them – truly does make a difference. Start small – have one less drink at the pub or one extra hour of sleep instead of telly and work your way on from there. Health is a choice!
Stay happy and healthy!
P.S. If you already have a cold or the flu, do yourself a favor and check out this site. It explains why you’re sneezing and feverish and what you can do to heal faster!
To see some of the articles I used for this post, check out these sources
(Written by my wonderful Virtual Assistant)