9 Essential Tips for Preventing the Flu

Fighting the Flu

Whether we're ready for it or not, flu season is upon us. Instead of scrambling to find home remedies and sitting in a doctor's office when it hits you, you can take all the precautions below to ensure your chances of catching it are minimized! 

1) Stay Hydrated. We're constantly told to drink enough water, but do you know why? The list could go on and on, but the Mayo Clinic points out a few: 

  • Gets rid of waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements 
  • Keeps your temperature normal 
  • Lubricates and cushions joints 
  • Protects sensitive tissues

Still not convinced? Sufficient water intake allows the body to absorb nutrients and helps the kidneys balance electrolytes - both of which are essential for overall health.

There are no hard and fast rules on how much water you should be drinking each day, as there are individual factors that affect this. However, the Mayo Clinic recommends about 15.5 cups of fluids per day for men and 11.5 cups for women. Factors to consider for increasing your intake might include how much you exercise, your environment (for example, hot and humid weather makes you sweat and requires a higher fluid intake), and pregnancy or breastfeeding.

2) Exercise regularly. What better way to fight cold and flu viruses than by building your immune system? There are a few ways you can do this, and exercising regularly is one of them. 

The experts at Harvard Health Publishing point out the obvious reasons exercise is good for you, like the improvements to cardiovascular health, it lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight and protects against diseases. Even more than that though, regular exercise "promotes good circulation, which allows the cells and substances to move through your body freely and do their job efficiently."

Regular exercise doesn't have to mean lifting heavy weights at the gym every day. if you aren't used to physical activity, starting out with a 30-minute walk each day is better than nothing at all! 

3) Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often. I know what you're thinking: "duh." But I'm including this anyway. After every bathroom visit, before and after time in the kitchen, every time you use the handrail on an escalator - need I go on? Obviously, it's not always feasible to wash your hands in public. I like to keep small, portable hand sanitizer bottles in my car and bag for the times when I can't use warm water and soap. Just remember to only use ones that have at least 60% alcohol, and when you do use hand sanitizer, it has to dry completely before you touch anything, or it won't be as effective. 

4) Take vitamins. Remember when I said there a few ways to boost your immune system? Here's another one. Here's a list of vitamins and their uses put together by the LiveStrong Foundation

  • Vitamin C is among the best known immune system-enhancing vitamins available. This vitamin may stimulate your body's production of interferon, a chemical that helps destroy viral infections, according to Phyllis Balch, author of "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." It also may increase white blood cell count, protecting your body against influenza infection. Boost your intake of vitamin C by adding foods to your diet such as kiwi fruit, pomegranates, blueberries, strawberries, spinach, limes, lemons, and oranges. Because your body requires large doses of vitamin C to ward off influenza, as much as 10,000 milligrams per day, consider a vitamin supplement to further increase your vitamin C intake.
  • Vitamin B-5, also known as pantothenic acid, may stimulate the production of adrenal glands, providing your body with hormones for enhanced immune system response. It also may increase production of antibodies that attack and destroy the influenza virus, according to Balch. Vitamin B-5 also improves metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins from food sources that your body uses for energy and immune system health. This vitamin is found in B-complex vitamin supplements, as well as foods such as mushrooms, rye, whole wheat bread and garbanzo beans.
  • Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that your body produces when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. However, this vitamin also is available in supplement form as well as from food sources such as eggs, dairy products, tuna, salmon, mackerel, and halibut. This vitamin may enhance your immune system's ability to produce proteins that fight disease-producing microbes, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. However, evidence linking vitamin D to protection from influenza is largely anecdotal.
  • Like vitamin C, vitamin A may stimulate the production of white blood cells that destroy the influenza virus. It also is a potent antioxidant, which may prevent damage to your upper respiratory tract caused by toxins and free radical cells. Vitamin A is typically included in multivitamin supplements and also is available as a stand-alone supplement. You can boost your vitamin A intake by consuming foods such as carrots, beef liver, broccoli, cantaloupe, dandelion greens, cayenne peppers, and alfalfa. Check with your doctor before increasing your vitamin A intake to ward off the flu since daily doses of more than 10,000 International Units may be toxic to your liver.

5) Regularly clean your smartphone. Probably not a tip you expected on a list like this, but sanitizing your cell phone is just as important as washing your hands. Every time you pick up your phone, you're transferring to it whatever bacteria is currently on your hands. That's not all, though. Typically, our smartphones are stored in dark, warm places which make them the perfect breeding ground to create MORE bacteria.

PhoneSoap 3 makes sanitizing your phone quick, easy, and effective. In only 10 minutes, it will kill 99.99% of the bacteria on your phone and it even has a built-in USB port so you can charge your phone at the same time to maximize productivity! 

6) No handkerchiefs! Or the sleeve of your sweatshirt. If someone in your home happens to get sick, make sure there are plenty of tissues to go around that can be THROWN AWAY. Using handkerchiefs or wiping noses on clothing will basically ensure those germs are spread around to every member of the family.

7) Get enough sleep. My personal favorite. Simply put, sleep is your secret weapon. The Mayo Clinic tells us, "people who get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus...lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick." 

So, why is this? They tell us that, too: "During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep."

Adults typically need 7-8 hours of sleep, teenagers need 9-10, and school-aged children generally need 10 or more hours of sleep.

8) Implement a healthy diet. There's a reason candy and chips and hamburgers from the drive-thru are called junk food. Among other consequences, too much junk food can cause high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and you're depriving your body of the nutrients that it needs. I mentioned taking vitamins earlier, but what's even better than taking vitamins is eating plenty of whole foods that each offer a combination of nutrients. This is discussed on VeryWellFit.com: "For example, Hark points out, eating an orange is better for you than just taking vitamin C pills because the orange offers you a combination of nutrients—magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin B-6, and antioxidant-rich flavonoids."

I've included a list of superfoods for you from HealthLine.com below. To learn more about their exact contributions, check out the article here

1. Citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, clementines)
2. Red bell peppers
3. Broccoli
4. Garlic
5. Ginger
6. Spinach
7. Yogurt
8. Almonds 
9. Turmeric
10. Green tea
11. Papaya
12. Kiwi
13. Poultry
14. Sunflower seeds 
15. Shellfish
 

"If we eat nutritiously more often than not, when we’re stressed and overworking our bodies, our immune systems will have the right vitamins and nutrients to keep us healthy during skipped meals and crazy sleep schedules." - LegionAthletics.com

9) Stress management. Last but not least! When your everyday stresses spiral out of control, it's a slippery slope back to steady ground. It's important to keep your stress at a manageable level because high stress can lead to lack of sleep, depression, and an unbalanced diet. Easier said than done, I know. For tips on how to manage your stress, check out this article from the American Psychological Association. There's also another detailed list of suggestions here!

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