Besides back-to-school and the holidays, the fall and winter are known for ushering in peak cold and flu season. If you want to stay healthy enough to get on with your work, school and playtime, you’ll need to prepare yourself way ahead of time. Here are 100 healthy hacks to help you through cold and flu season and avoid getting sick.
Follow this list of dos, including washing your hands, getting vaccinated and getting plenty of fresh air, and you’ll be more protected against colds and flu.
- Wash your hands: One of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of germs is to wash your hands.
- Don’t touch your face: You pick up lots of germs just by being in public or even your own house, so avoid putting your dirty hands and fingers on your face.
- Carry antibacterial gel or wipes: Clean your hands before eating out with on-the-go antibacterial gel or hand wipes.
- Get vaccinated: People with certain health conditions, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone around lots of people (teachers, health care providers, flight attendants) should get vaccinated for the flu.
- Avoid crowds: At the peak of cold and flu season, avoid large crowds and packed airplanes and airports.
- Rest when you think you’re getting sick: Give your body a chance to rest by getting enough sleep and eating right. Avoid late nights and partying.
- Clean your desk: Clean your office space, including keyboard, mouse and any shared supplies to rid the area of germs.
- Disinfect your house: Spray doorknobs and other public-use areas if you have roommates or house guests.
- Stay warm and dry: Your body may be more vulnerable to germs and infections if you’re suddenly soaked in a cold rainstorm and experience a drastic change in temperature.
- Evaluate your risk: People with chronic illnesses like AIDS or respiratory problems are more likely to get sick, so they’ll need to be extra prepared.
- Visit a sauna: One German study found that people who went to saunas twice a week got half as many colds as those who never went to one.
- Stay positive: Some researchers believe that the placebo effect may influence a person’s health, so try to convince yourself that you’re healthy and prepared.
- Get fresh air: Well ventilated rooms with open windows clear and purify the air.
- Meditate: Your body’s natural cold and flu fighters increase when you relax, so focus on something pleasant and peaceful for 30 minutes per day.
- Go about your daily routine: Don’t become a hypochondriac or let the flu hype get out of control. Be sensible about your health.
- Be happy: A happy state of mind can lead to a healthier body, too.
If you want to stay healthy this season, stop smoking, don’t share personal items like cosmetics, and don’t even think about putting your bag down in the bathroom.
- Don’t get too stressed out: Stress can weaken your immune system and distract you from staying healthy.
- Don’t carry a cloth bag: During cold and flu season, carry a leather or vinyl bag that’s easier to wipe down after trips to the store.
- Don’t huddle indoors: This doctor and assistant professor suggests we see more colds in winter simply because we tend to huddle together indoors too much, making it easier to swap germs. Get out for fresh air and alone time.
- Don’t share cosmetics: Mascara, eye shadow brushes, lip glosses and other personal items carry lots of germs and should not be shared.
- Don’t use a hanky: Prevent the spread of germs by throwing away tissues immediately after you use them.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking weakens the respiratory system, which can leave you vulnerable to colds.
- Don’t drink after someone else: Even if you drink out of a different straw or side of the glass, there could be germs inside the drink due to backwash.
- Don’t put your bag down in the bathroom: Hang up your bag on a public restroom hook.
- Don’t share food: Dipping your fork or breaking off a piece of someone else’s food plate leaves you vulnerable to their germs.
- Don’t double dip: Stay away from open dips at parties and restaurants.
- Don’t compromise your sleep schedule: Adults need 7-8 hours per night while teens need approximately 9 hours per night.
- Don’t drink: Limit your alcohol intake to give your body a rest and sleep better.
These foods will help keep your immune system strong while others are coughing and sneezing all around you.
- Mushrooms: This simple food is actually packed with immune-bolstering properties.
- Water: Water keeps you hydrated and energized and contributes to a healthy immune system.
- Look for foods with phytochemicals: Foods with phytochemicals: dark green, red and yellow fruits and vegetables, are best when you want to boost your immune system.
- Citrus fruits: Oranges, grapefruits and limes are great sources of Vitamin C.
- Green tea: Get your fill of antioxidants by drinking soothing green tea.
- Dairy products: Dairy products contain a higher ratio of lysine to arginine, making them effective at preventing cold sores.
- Onions: Onions work with Vitamin C to kill bacteria.
- Spinach: Dark green vegetables like spinach are good for your immune system.
- Balanced diet: A balanced diet will keep you healthy all year round, so make sure to get a proper amount of all nutrients from whole foods, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Yogurt: Eating low-fat yogurt once a day may help reduce your chances of getting a cold by 25%.
- Squash and pumpkin: These brightly colored vegetables have lots of Vitamins A and C to help your immune system.
- Tumeric: Tumeric may help boost your immune system and can prevent inflammation.
- Blueberries: Get helpful antioxidants and Vitamin C with blueberries.
- Salmon: Salmon is a good source of Vitamin A and can reduce your risk of getting infections.
Check out these blogs, feeds and resources to keep up with cold and flu news and updates that can help you stay healthy and prepared.
- @CDCFlu: The Center for Disease Control has a special Twitter feed for news about the flu and tips for preventing the flu.
- @whonews: The World Health Organization also posts updates about the flu.
- @GetReady: This feed gets Americans ready for cold and flu season.
- @CDCemergency: Follow the Center for Disease Control emergency feed for important flu alerts.
- Everyday Health: Get everyday tips for staying healthy and cold and flu-free.
- CNN Health: CNN Health has great seasonal articles about staying healthy.
- College Health Guide: College students can turn to Revolution Health’s guide for news and tips for staying healthy.
- Flu: Medline Plus: Medline Plus’ resource has information for identifying symptoms and staying healthy.
- Flu/Cold/SARS News: Medical News Today briefs the public on news and tips for preventing the flu.
- Prevention of Common Cold: WrongDiagnosis.com can give you the straight information on preventing colds.
Supplements and Vitamins
Just to be on the safe side, take these supplements and vitamins to get extra doses of Vitamin C, A, zinc and more.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is crucial to helping your immune system and preventing colds and the flu.
- Garlic: Garlic is an age-old supplement used to prevent sickness.
- Grapefruit seed extract: Grapefruit seed extract is a natural antiviral and antibiotic.
- Zinc: Zinc is another supplement that can help prevent illness when taken regularly.
- Emergen-C: While the benefits of taking Emergen-C after you start feeling rundown are still unknown, taking a regular Vitamin C supplement can keep your immune system strong.
- Ginger: Add ginger to recipes or tea to boost your immune system.
You can’t help going to work or school during cold and flu season, but these hacks will make socializing less risky.
- Wear a mask: If you’re visiting a highly infected area, consider getting a face mask to protect yourself against germs.
- Tell your employees to stay home: Make your employees stay home when they’re truly sick instead of infecting the whole office.
- Ask guests to wear gloves and masks: If you have a condition that makes you extra susceptible to getting sick, ask house guests to wear gloves and masks during cold and flu season.
- Don’t get too close: If you know someone is sick, avoid them or at least avoid touching them for a few days
- Wash your hands after leaving a public place: You know to wash your hands before eating or drinking, but make sure you wash them when you leave the restaurant, bar, park, or movie theatre too.
- Use a paper towel to open the door of the restroom: When leaving public restrooms, use a paper towel to open the door to avoid picking up more germs.
- Stay at home: When you’re feeling sick, stay at home to keep others healthy and speed up your recovery time.
- Telecommute: Ask your boss if you can telecommute to work if the rest of the office is sick.
- Have online meetings and conference calls: Use Skype and other services to host meetings online, minimizing your trips out into public.
- Stop being touchy-feely: Whenever it’s appropriate, refrain from shaking hands, kissing and hugging.
Regular exercise is a good defense against the cold and flu season.
- Get at least 30 minutes a day: A solid, half-hour workout will help your immune system stay strong.
- Aerobic exercise: Aerobic exercise increases the flow of oxygen and makes you sweat, helping your body fight viruses.
- Follow the neck rule: If all of your symptoms are above your neck, you probably have a head cold and can still work out.
- Don’t work out when you have a fever: If you have a fever, your body needs rest, not a work out.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during and after a workout.
- Watch for germs at the gym: Wash your hands after using equipment and bring your own towel and mats to reduce the spread of germs.
- Go for a walk outside: To get fresh, clean air, go for a walk or run outside instead of the damp, stinky gym.
- Yoga: Yoga can help you prevent a cold or flu by reducing stress, increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain, and work out specific parts of the body that are tied to your immune system.
- Stretch: Reduce stress by stretching out at your desk and before and after every exercise.
Make sure your home isn’t breeding cold and flu germs by following these recommendations.
- Clean frequently high traffic areas: Light switches, kitchen counters, doorknobs, kitchen cupboards and alarm clocks should be cleaned often.
- Vacuum: Pick up dust and germs by vacuuming frequently
- Teach your kids good health practices: Teach your kids how to wash their hands, sneeze and use tissues at school and at home.
- Change your air filters: Keep air clean and well ventilated by changing air filters every few months.
- Monitor bed time: Children are especially susceptible to colds and flu, so make sure they get enough sleep.
- Keep your kids at home: Keep them entertained with movies and private parties at home instead of subjecting them to all the germs in public.
- Keep tissues all over the house: Make it easy for guests, children and every one else to find tissues when they need one.
- Disinfect the kitchen: Your kitchen attracts lots of germs, so make sure you clean all surfaces before and after preparing food, including the sink, table, cutting boards, stove and sponges.
- Wash toys: Wash shared toys, blankets and other items.
- Protect toothbrushes: Keep toothbrushes covered so that they are less likely to attract germs from sneezes.
Students, including young kids and college students, are at an even greater risk for spreading and sharing germs, so follow these hacks to stay healthy.
- Don’t pack your schedule: An overworked, stressful schedule won’t leave you enough time for adequate rest.
- Use a tissue to open doors: Minimize the spread of germs by buffering your hand and the doorknob with a tissue.
- Bring your own supplies: Pencil sharpeners and other public-use supplies are covered in germs.
- Limit your hook-ups: The more you start kissing people, the more you put yourself at risk for swapping germs.
- Sit far away from students in class: Don’t sit right in the middle of all the sick kids: stay farther away especially during cold and flu season.
- Use disposable cups: Use plastic cups at parties and write your name on your own glass to avoid sharing.
- Sneeze and cough into clothing: Don’t cover your face with your hands: you’ll just spread more germs.
- Keep up with schoolwork: Make taking a sick day here and there less of an issue by keeping up with your schoolwork all semester.
- Take a break from the library: Take your own laptop outside to reduce the germ-infested library.
- Stick to your own personal space: It’s hard in a packed dorm room, but try to minimize contact with your roommate’s belongings as much as possible, especially if he or she is sick.