7 Ways to Protect Yourself from the Flu
Peak flu season runs until the end of February, and the sounds of coughs and sneezes are pervasive. From stores to workplaces to schools, the risk of contamination with the flu virus is possible nearly everywhere. According to WebMD, 5-to-20 percent of the population will get the flu each year, with 200,000 of those cases requiring hospitalization. However, there are ways to help maintain a strong immune system and reduce the risk of the flu.
- Wash Hands Frequently: Practicing good hand hygiene is one of easiest way to remove germs and viruses. For most effective results, the CDC recommends wetting the hands, then lathering up with soap for 20 seconds. Even with clean hands, it is best to avoid touching the mouth and eyes to avoid spreading any germs that may have been picked up on surfaces since last washing.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Lack of sleep seriously compromises the immune system and therefore lowers resilience to viruses like the flu, according to the Mayo Clinic. The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults aim to get 7-to-8 hours a night to help the body stay healthy and function optimally.
- Stress Less. Many studies have shown that stress can wreak havoc on the immune system, and chronic stress is particularly harmful to the body. Learn how to manage and mitigate the negative effects of stress through practices such as meditation, yoga, breathing and visualization techniques, and other relaxing activities.
- Cut Sugar and Eat Well: Try to limit sugar this flu season, since sugar acts as an immune suppressant. Instead choose healthy foods, such as probiotic-rich Greek yogurt, which supports balanced gut bacteria and is linked to improved immune-system function, according to Fox News. Also include a variety of fresh produce in the diet for antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Oranges, tomatoes and strawberries are all rich sources of vitamin C. Carrots and kale contain high levels of beta carotene, which the body converts to immune-boosting vitamin A. Sardines are an excellent source of the “sunshine vitamin” aka vitamin D, which plays an essential role in immune-system regulation. With less daylight during darker winter days, this fish is a great choice.
- Take a Supplement (or Two). Nutrient deficiencies can alter immune responses, according to Harvard Health. To boost immunity, consider supplementing your diet with immune-boosting vitamin C, vitamin D, probiotics, zinc, garlic and Echinacea.
- Get Moving: Exercise is a pillar to healthy living, contributing to overall health. Regular activity can also help stimulate the immune system, helping build resistance to colds and the flu. Exercise also aids circulation, allowing cells and the immune system to act more efficiently, according to Harvard Health.
- Stay Hydrated. Just as water was at the top of the list at #1 with proper hand washing, it ends the list as a fundamental element to health when it is consumed as well. The Institute of Medicine recommends men to drink about 3 liters a day, and women about 2 liters daily. Most know this as the “8×8 rule” or 8 ounces, 8 glasses a day rule. For athletes and those who sweat excessively during exercise, it is important to increase consumption according to activity levels. Drinking enough water daily also aids in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, as well as assists in toxin elimination, according to Medical News Today. In addition, water aids in many vital functions of the body, keeping cells healthy and efficient.