October to May is flu season. The 2019-2020 flu season is on track to be one of the worst in recent years. According to the CDC, between October 1, 2019, and the end of January 2020, at least 19 million people contracted the flu. But it’s not just the numbers: the dominant strain of flu virus this year is the H3N2 flu strain, which tends to cause more severe illness.
To complicate things, flu season overlaps with the season of the common cold, which starts around September and ends sometime around April. Cold and flu season occurs in colder months because we spend more time indoors sharing germs with others. Also, the viruses that cause the common cold and the flu spread more easily in colder, drier air.
This means we are now in the heart of cold and flu season.
But who has time to be sick!?
As we all know, without your health, nothing else matters: you cannot work, take care of yourself or your family, or manage your life. Fortunately, there are preventive steps you can take to help you stay healthy, or reduce the severity of your illness if you get sick. Here’s how.
1. Get the flu shot – it’s never too late.
During last year’s flu season, the CDC estimates the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 4.4 million cases of the flu. While flu activity peaks between October and early February, it’s never too late to get the flu vaccine, as some flu activity can last as late as May. This year’s flu vaccine is approximately 45% to 47% effective in adults. Yet, even at that relatively low effectiveness rate, the vaccine reduces the severity of the flu if you get it. Plus, each time you get a flu shot, it strengthens your immune system as your body learns to fight the injected flu strains. It also creates a “circle of health” around you: when lots of people in a community — or an office or school – get the flu shot, it bolsters the overall health of everyone.
2. Don’t touch your face, and wash your hands … a lot.
This is the most effective way to stay well. The flu and common cold both spread when we touch something that has virus germs on it, getting those germs on our hands, and then touching our mouth, nose, or eyes. Washing your hands, and avoiding touching your face, are two of the most effective ways to stay well during cold and flu season. When you can’t get to a sink, keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you.
3. Take supplements for good health.
There are many supplements that support a healthy immune system and also specifically help ward off a cold. The top supplements to help you stay healthy are:
- Probiotics, especially Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei, play a role in protecting against the common cold, and shortening its duration by boosting gut health, which boosts overall health and the immune system.
- Elderberry extract and garlic are antiviral and can help reduce and prevent the cold and flu, which are both viral infections.
- Zinc lozenges can reduce the severity and duration of the common cold by up to 50%. Zinc works by preventing the rhinovirus that causes the common cold from multiplying and from lodging in the mucous membranes of the throat and nose.
- Buffered Vitamin C shortens the duration of colds and has been shown to prevent infection in some cases. Buffered Vitamin C contains magnesium, potassium, and calcium, which are also essential to good health, and make the Vitamin C less acidic and easier on the stomach.
- Vitamins D and K are effective in preventing acute respiratory infections. Because Vitamins D and K work together in the body, it’s best to pair them when supplementing.
4. Support your immune system with healthy lifestyle choices.
A strong and healthy immune system is your first line of defense to the flu or a cold. You can support your immune system with specific healthy lifestyle choices. Adopt these immune-boosting strategies during cold and flu season:
- Eat a balanced diet, full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins
- Limit sugar intake
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting sugary beverages
- drink alcohol in moderation, or not at all
- Exercise regularly
- Manage your stress levels
- Don’t smoke
- Get enough sleep
Be well!© iStockphoto