Top 5 tips to staying healthy this cold and flu season
It’s Fall! Pumpkins spice is everywhere! Stylish boots are back! Allergies are gone! Amazing!
It’s also time for recirculated air in offices, and for kids to return to the virus incubation factories knowns as “schools”, from which they lovingly bring home beautiful, mucusy, body-ache inducing gifts from the classroom – rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, and rotovirus! Otherwise known as: cold and flu.
Yes, that’s right. It’s cold and flu season. Batten down the hatches, get a Costco-sized stockpile of tissues and load up on the hand santizer. Right?
Or, you can take action, now, before you and your family get sick. Boost that immunity and aim to stay healthy this year!
Here are the top 5 things you can do to stay un-sick:
1. Wash. Your. Hands.
Frequent hand washing is STILL one of the best ways to keep yourself from catching a bug. So, here’s your reminder to practice proper hand washing technique. Frequently. Just got home with the groceries? Wash your hands before putting all that food away. Having lunch in the staff room at work? Wash before and after eating. Been typing up that report for the last 2 hours? First of all, take a break. But also, wash your hands! (Your keyboard is probably filthy!)
Also, pick up a (natural) hand cream, and apply after washing. This will help to keep the skin hydrated and intact (read: protective immune barrier) through the cold, dry, wintery months.
I know. Another shocker. But if you’re sleeping well, and enough, LITERALLY everything in your body works better. Including your immune system. Science tells us that if you don’t get enough shut-eye, you’re more likely to get sick. Simple as that. So get to bed. The usual 8 hours of sleep is a pretty good place to start! You may need less, you may need more – especially if you’ve been on the go for a while, and maybe not taking as much down-time as you could (should) be.
Here are some quick tips for good sleep:
- Make sure your room is dark – like, can’t see you hand in front of your face, dark.
- Keep it cool – we sleep better in slightly cooler environments
- Don’t binge Netflix before bed – light emitted from screens (all screens, not just the ones with Netflix, for clarity) decreases your brain’s production of melatonin, the neurotransmitter that tells your body “it’s nighttime, go to sleep”
- Get a routine going – keep a regular bedtime, and do the same things for about the same half hour before you try to pack it in for the day (wash your face, brush your teeth, put on those footy Pikachu ‘jammies you love). Just like your laptop’s mysterious processes behind that “shutting down, please do not turn off or unplug your computer”, this routine gets your mind and body ready to shut down.
3. Eat good food.
It’s true! Surprisingly, what you eat can have an impact on your health! (heavy sarcasm.) But yes, even in the relatively short term of seasonal immunity, your diet can affect your health. So, here’s even more convincing evidence to eat your veggies, get a rainbow of colours (with a heavy smattering of green!), adequate protein and fat, and take it easy on the sugar. Ensuring good dietary intake of things like zinc, vitamin C and magnesium make for happy immunity!
Oh, and make sure to include garlic too – the more the merrier, and raw if you can tolerate it. Garlic is a natural anti-microbial, and helps to raise levels of natural killer (NK) cells. Low levels of these cells are associated with decreased ability to defend against disease. So, eat your garlic and fend off bad bugs, and another scourge of October – vampires!
Even though fall is usually the beginning of hibernation season, it’s still important to stay at least somewhat active, especially for supporting healthy immunity. When you work out, you increase blood flow around the body. This means that if you have any immune action going down (early stages of fighting a bug, for example) it increases the exposure to your total immune system, increasing your response, and fighting it off faster. Exercise also SLIGHTLY elevates our cortisol (stress hormone) to a nice, physiological level. And this can help us to keep some our immunological biochemistry nicely balanced, towards fighting off infection, rather than hosting it. BUT! Keep it light (to moderate) since heavy bouts of intense physical activity can depress the immune system.
5. Get out there and have fun.
You’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine? Well, science agrees. Laughter – especially the really good, gut busting, “my face hurts” kind – increases your levels of natural killer cells. So, give yourself a couple minutes to watch those funny cat videos you deny you love! Or, better yet, get some face time! Social interaction also contributes to a healthy immune function. So, instead of just hibernating and staring longingly out your window alone this fall, invite a friend over to join you! Maybe they have cat videos you don’t even know about, and they could help prevent a miserable week of the sniffles!
TL; DR. (Summary)
Wash your hands, get enough sleep, eat a good diet rich in vitamins and minerals, stay moderately physically active, and watch cat videos with a friend.
Hopefully these tips help to keep you healthy and sniffle-free this season! If you’d like even more support in keeping your immune system in fighting shape, book an appointment for a thorough assessment of the factors that may be keeping you under the weather, and help on how to feel better!