Winter is a time for being merry, taking ski holidays, and curling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. But it’s also a time when many of us succumb to the cold, flu, strep throat, or even pneumonia. The good news is you’re not powerless against the bugs that go around during the winter. By taking steps to protect yourself and others from infection, you can avoid getting sick — and even if you do get sick, your efforts can help mitigate your symptoms.
Get the Flu Shot
You may have heard that the CDC recently released a warning that this year’s flu vaccine may only be effective against about half of the H3N2 strains going around right now. However, that’s actually normal when it comes to flu vaccines — because the virus continues to mutate throughout the season, the vaccine prevents only about 59 percent of flu cases even in a good year.
Though it doesn’t provide complete protection, the flu vaccine is still the best way to protect yourself from the flu. Even if you catch one of the mutated flu strains, the vaccine may still offer partial protection that could help ease your symptoms.
Use Preventative Antiviral Medications
Let’s say you don’t get the flu vaccine, and then you’re exposed to the flu anyway. Or you do get it, but you’re exposed and you’re worried that it may have been one of the mutated strains. Use Canada Drug Pharmacy to search for antiviral medications like Tamiflu or Relenza that can help you stave off infection.
Wash Your Hands with Soap and Water
Cleaning your hands frequently can help protect you from cold and flu, but you need to use soap and water, not hand sanitizer. Scrub your hands at the sink for at least 20 seconds. Make sure you dry them completely afterward, since damp or wet hands can more easily spread microbes.
The snow and cold weather of the winter months may discourage you from exercising as much as you otherwise would, but regular winter exercise can help you fight off infection. Moderate, regular exercise can reduce your risk of getting sick in the winter by as much as 27 percent. Yoga may be especially good for boosting immunity.
Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc with your immune response, lowering your T-cell count and increasing general inflammation. If you do get sick, continuing to lose sleep can make it harder for your body to fight the infection. Make sure you get your eight hours, and talk to a doctor if you’re having problems sleeping.
Avoid Cigarette Smoke
If you’re a smoker, quit. If you’re not a smoker, avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking, or even inhaling a small amount of someone else’s cigarette smoke, increases your chances of catching H1N1, or swine flu, by as much as five times. Inhaling even miniscule amounts of cigarette smoke leaves your body vulnerable to infection because it takes the nasal cilia so long to remove those particles of smoke from your breathing passages, which interferes with their ability to fend off microbes.
Drink Green Tea Sweetened with Honey
Green tea contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. EGCG stops the influenza virus in its tracks, and may also be effective against the bacteria that cause pneumonia. Drink plenty of green tea to boost your immunity, and sweeten it with honey, a natural antimicrobial found to be effective against the bacteria that cause strep throat. Eating honey may also prevent salmonella, pneumonia, and staph infections. For bonus points, add some fresh, grated ginger to your tea for spicy kick that helps fight respiratory syncytial virus, a virus that can cause bronchitis and pneumonia.
Eat Plenty of Fish
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and anchovies can boost your immunity to help protect you from infection. Eat fish or take omega-3 supplements after a workout for maximum benefit.
Research shows that sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol can protect you from strep throat by preventing the bacteria from taking hold in your system. Chewing gum that contains xylitol can also protect you from sinus infections and ear infections.
According to researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, those who practice regular meditation call in sick to work an average of 76 percent fewer days each year. Meditation helps relieve stress, to keep your immune system functioning at optimal levels. If you’ve never meditated before, you may be able to find free classes in your community, or benefit from free guided meditations online.
Cold and flu season is upon us, but there’s a lot you can do to avoid getting sick this year. Above all, remember to take good care of yourself — get plenty of rest, eat right, sleep as much as you need to, and keep exercising. Even if you do get sick, your body will be in prime shape to fight the infection.