While there are plenty of foods and home remedies that can aid in recovery, the best way to deal with cold and flu symptoms is prevent them from occurring in the first place. Though there is no way to guarantee that you won’t get sick, taking the precautions below can drastically reduce the odds of picking up a cold or flu bug, especially if you work in an office or classroom setting where avoiding potentially infectious people isn’t possible.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Being sleep deprived can negatively impact your body’s immune function, making you more susceptible to the germs that cause colds and the flu. As people get older, they are more likely to report getting less than the recommended amount of sleep, as well as experiencing more frequent sleep interruptions. Getting plenty of quality sleep can keep your immune system in top shape, and if you do happen to get sick, more sleep is also linked to a faster recovery time.
Drinking plenty of water is vital to staving off cold and flu germs. The first line of defense for your body is the mucus membrane in your nose, and staying hydrated keeps that membrane moist so that it is able to effectively trap bacteria before it reaches the lungs. Drinking water is especially important for people that drink lots of coffee in the morning, since caffeine has a diuretic effect that can dehydrate the body.
Use a Nasal Rinse
Rinsing out your sinuses with a neti pot or bulb syringe can help to flush out germs and bacteria and keep the mucous membrane in your nose healthy. A simple saline rinse solution can be purchased from a pharmacy, or it can be made at home by mixing three teaspoons of iodine-free salt into a cup of distilled water.
Make Some Tea
A cup of tea can do more than just help you relax during cold and flu season. Breathing in steam from your tea helps to moisturize the inside of your nose and stimulate the tiny hair follicles there, which makes them more efficient at pushing out germs and debris. For even better results, mix in things like honey, lemon juice, and ginger root–all of which have antibacterial properties.
Regular exercise provides a major boost to the immune system. In fact, studies have shown that people who don’t work out are three times as likely to come down with a cold or flu compared to those that exercise just 3 times per week. That doesn’t mean you have to be in the gym pumping iron, either–a quick 15-20 minute jog is all it takes, and if there’s a bug going around, it might actually be better to avoid crowded gyms.
Adjust Your Diet
Diet plays a much larger role in regulating the body’s immune function than most people realize. For example, protein and zinc deficiencies can deplete the immune system and leave you wide open for germs and bacteria to take hold. You can up your protein and zinc intake at the same time by including more lean beef, shellfish, nuts, and seeds in your diet, and it’s not a bad idea to add more citrus fruits for an extra dose of vitamin C, either. While it’s not the miracle cure some people tout it as, research suggests vitamin C can help the body fight off the cold and flu, and it may lessen the severity of symptoms should you get sick.
Be Aware of Hot Spots
When it comes to germs, the best offense is a good defense, and that means knowing and avoiding the places where germs and bacteria tend to accumulate. This is especially important if you work in an office setting with plenty of other people. A recent study of germ hot spots in the office revealed that the worst offenders were copying machine buttons, coffee pot handles, and knobs on commonly used doors. A travel-sized package of sanitary wipes can help you disinfect surfaces that see a lot of use, which can help keep you and your coworkers germ-free.
No amount of caution can completely eliminate the risk of coming down with the cold or flu, but preventative measures like the ones above can keep your exposure to germs limited and your immune system in fighting shape, giving you the best odds of staying healthy through flu season.