Eight Tips to Stay Healthy this Flu Season
Flu season is in full swing, but this year, it is further complicated by the continuing coronavirus pandemic. We have all become professional hand-washers, vigilant social-distancers and experts at covering our mouths when we sneeze and cough, and those measures go a long way toward preventing both of these highly contagious respiratory illnesses. Here are eight tips to stay healthy as we enter this unprecedented fall.
Be Vigilant About Your Symptoms
As with any illness, detecting flu symptoms early and beginning treatment as soon as possible is essential to reducing the duration of the illness. Because some coronavirus symptoms are similar to those of bronchitis, the flu and the common cold, it is likely that a test will be necessary to tell the difference and decide on a course of treatment. So, if you or your child has a persistent fever, cough, congestion, sore throat or runny nose, it is best to consult your doctor as soon as possible.
We Can’t Say it Enough: Keep Washing Your Hands
We know you’re sick of hearing it, but you have to do it. With soap and water, for at least 20 seconds or the time it takes you to hum or sing the “Happy Birthday” song two times through. If you’re not near a sink, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipe. Germs are spread when a person touches a contaminated surface – door knobs, the slide at the playground, a dumbbell at the gym, the credit card touch-pad at the grocery store – then touches their eyes, nose or mouth, whose mucous membranes are basically direct pathways to the throat and lungs.
It’s hard enough for adults to stop touching their faces, and nearly impossible for children. So, have them wash up frequently, especially after trips to the bathroom, coming home from school or playdates, and before meals.
Disinfect High-touch Surfaces Regularly
Think of how many things in your house you touch every day: kitchen sponges, dishcloths, cutting boards, desks, computer keyboards, cell phones, door knobs, faucets, bedding, the television remote, the steering wheel of your car. The flu virus can live on hard surfaces, such as plastic and stainless steel, for up to two days, and for up to 12 hours on fabric. Disinfecting hot-spots regularly with common household cleaners that contain bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or soap does the trick.
Get Plenty of Vitamin C
Foods rich in Vitamin C, such as orange juice, citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, broccoli and green peppers, support the immune system. And while vitamin C consumption likely won’t prevent you from getting a cold or the flu, it has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of the illness. Consider a supplement, such as kore vitamin C gummies or immune boost, to fill nutritional gaps in your diet.
Also, make an effort to cut back on sugary snacks like soda, sports drinks, cookies, and candy for both yourself and your children, as excessive amounts of sugar can impair the immune response.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
When we sleep, the body produces and releases cytokines, proteins that target infection and inflammation to form the basis of your immune response. When we are sleep deprived, production of cytokines, T cells, and other infection-fighting antibodies is reduced, meaning skimping on shut-eye can severely limit your body’s ability to fight infection. Adults should shoot for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours, while young children may need 10 or more hours of sleep each night.
Water is essential to all of our bodily functions and is especially important to the immune system, which relies on our blood stream – made mostly of water - to transport nutrients and proteins that fight infection. When it comes to the flu, staying hydrated can also provide a first line of defense by keeping the mucous membranes in the nose moist. This allows them to trap germs and bacteria before they can get into the throat and lungs. When mucous membranes dry out, they are much less effective. If you do get sick, staying hydrated is essential to replace fluids lost to congestion, fever and vomiting.
To determine how much water is enough, divide your body weight in pounds in half to get your recommended number of ounces of water per day; that is, a 180-pound man should drink 90 ounces, while a 140-pound woman should drink 70. And if you exercise regularly, drink more.
Research shows that regular exercise can stimulate the immune system, improving the body’s ability to find and eradicate pathogens. In the long term, regular exercise delays the onset of age-related immune dysfunction. Exercise helps flush bacteria from the lungs and airways, and increases blood flow, which keeps antibodies and white blood cells needed to fight infection circulating rapidly.
Additionally, the brief increase in body temperature during and after exercise may prevent the growth of bacteria and help the body fight infection, similar to the effects of a fever. So, even as it gets cooler, bundle up the kids and get them outside for bike rides, walks and backyard games of tag.
Listen to Your Body
If you do get sick, relax. Stay home. Overdoing it with activity steals valuable energy resources the immune system can alternatively use to fight your infection. And, if you do have symptoms, avoiding the energy expenditure of attending a social gathering, or work, or school, will also spare your friends, family, and coworkers exposure to whatever it is you’ve got.
The quickest way to spread disease is for sick people to come into contact with those who are not sick. So, to ensure the safety of all, plant yourself on the couch until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours, without the help of a fever-reducing medication, or until your symptoms subside.