There may not be snow blowing just yet this season, but soon more people will blow their noses and get sick due to colds or the flu.
Now is the time to put your health first by arming yourself with cold-ceasing and flu-fighting preventative practices making it easier and less likely to catch a virus during the peak season of colds and flu – January and February.
Arming your immune system with a routine of healthy habits
We may consider the common cold a nuisance than a health threat, but this rhinovirus is the leading cause of workplace absences and can lead to complications such as bronchitis, strep throat, and pneumonia. In addition, as temperatures nosedive and more of us spend time indoors around other people, a cold infection can spread more easily, making it common for most of us to catch a cold one to three times a year.
Influenza, also known as the flu, tends to be more seasonal and serious. Each year, between 5% and 20% of Americans contract the flu, and 200,000 will have to be hospitalized. The month of November tends to be when flu season gets its’ annual start and can last until March.
To avoid and reduce your risk of developing a cold or the flu, follow these simple steps to boost your immune system giving you extra protection from their grip:
- Get a flu shot
Soon, there will be annual reminders to be vaccinated against the flu – the more people who do, the less chance of a large proportion of the population being infected. At the time a flu vaccine is administered, antibodies will begin to develop in the body about two weeks after immunization protecing against infection with the viruses in the vaccine. Currently, about 70% of older adults are vaccinated. Unfortunately, because each year there is a different virus causing the flu, no flu vaccine is 100% effective. But, it is still important to help in reducing flu-related risks that can result in hospitalizations and death,
- Exercise to boost immunity
Exercise is being viewed more than ever as preventative medicine. It not only reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, but it can give an extra boost to the immune system. A strong immune system is vital in warding off germs and microbes wanting to cause us harm. Exercise increases circulation and blood flow throughout the body, creating a situation where the immune system is better at finding an illness before it spreads. So if you haven’t, get started with an exercise routine to reduce your risk of getting sick this season.
- Vitamin D for strong immunity
Vitamin D is important for immune health. Some studies have shown an association between people with low vitamin D status and an increased risk of developing the flu. Vitamin D works with the immune system to lower levels of inflammatory proteins called cytokines. This sunshine vitamin also increases antimicrobial proteins that can destroy invading germs and viruses. The combination of lowering inflammation and increasing antimicrobial defenses helps the immune system to fight infections more effectively.
Consume food sources high in vitamin D, spend some time in the sun and consider taking a supplement of vitamin D3 to enhance your vitamin D status.
- Protect yourself by eating lots of produce
Produce – fruits and veggies – are the necessary foods to load up on antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, strengthening the immune system to fight off infections. Produce does not have to be entirely fresh, as frozen and even canned sources can be good for you. For example, stock your freezer with frozen berries to put on steaming oatmeal in the morning or blend into a smoothie. Add fresh, canned, or frozen veggies to soups, stews, and stir-fry dishes. Canned beans are another source of valuable nutritious vitamins and minerals, keeping you healthy all winter long.
- Keep hydrated
Water is always a great choice, but other healthy flu-fighting beverages that are alternatives to water include green or turmeric tea, coffee, and 100% juices – all can help reduce inflammation, provide antioxidants, and prevent dehydration. Aim for at least 6-8 cups of fluids each day to keep you feeling your best.
- Frequent handwashing
One of the top ways of preventing and spreading germs is frequent handwashing. This is a must to protect yourself and others when coming into contact with contaminated surfaces or touching other people. Use plain soap and warm water to scrub off potential microbes wanting to cause you harm. Be sure to wash your hands by rubbing them together, getting in-between each finger and under nail at least 20 seconds to eliminate germs. Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible by avoiding rubbing your eyes or touching your nose and mouth.
- Adequate sleep and rest
A very important natural remedy against colds and flu is proper sleep and rest. Scientists at the University of Washington have linked a brain-specific protein associated with sleep to the ability to fight off flu symptoms. Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night to support a healthy immune system.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.