Springtime is a fresh season but can also be fraught with flu and cold germs, so we chatted with New York City internist Keri Peterson, MD, to come up with five simple defenses you can put up against the terror that is flu season. Think of this as your arsenal in the battle of your immune system.
- Wash your hands: We know this one is obvious, but a friendly reminder — there are germs everywhere. Wash your hands often, especially after you cough or come in close contact with someone who may be sick. Dr. Peterson says soap is better than hand sanitizers because sanitizer "can't penetrate [oils] if your hands are greasy with moisturizer." Also be sure you are washing hands the right way — a quick rinse won't do.
- Get a flu shot: the CDC recommends it, as it protects against three or four strains of the flu. Just one more defense mechanism to keep you flu-proofed.
- Load up on vitamins: Dr. Peterson says "reach for zinc the second you feel a cold [or flu] coming on," and make "a beeline for the nearest drugstore." Stock up on vitamin C, saline nasal spray, and over-the-counter products, like Cold-EEZE with zinc ions. Those will keep a virus from replicating and can shorten the duration of your sickness by almost half.
- Clean your desk: Germs live on surfaces — surfaces like your desk — and can spread rapidly, so anything that's touched a lot can be a threat (think, iPhone, keyboard, laptop, mouse, etc.). Dr. Peterson suggests starting the day with a disinfectant wipe. That'll kill 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria that may be hanging around, especially on your most-used devices. Added bonus: tidying up will also improve your energy levels!
- Exercise: Keep your immune system strong with a little exercise; squeezing in a sweat sesh will up your body's production of macrophages — virus-fighting cells that keep you strong and healthy. But remember, always make sure to take your rest days and don't overdo it, so you're boosting your immune system and not wearing it down.