Your Definitive Guide For Preventing and Coping With the Cold and Flu Season
Feel a cold coming on? Maybe you're already down for the count with the flu. Whether you're fighting off aches and chills or the people who bear the germs for aches and chills, we've got a guide for every step you can take to prevent and stave off a cold or the flu. Stay safe out there, people.
Number one: get adequate rest. If you're skipping on the zzz's, you're depleting your body's defenses and weakening your immune system. Not only is sleep important for preventing a cold and the flu, but it's also crucial in your recovery should you end up getting sick. Get at least eight hours whenever possible.
Already sick? Double down on the sleep. Get as much rest as humanly possible. Seriously, give yourself a break and sleep it off. And don't feel guilty while you're at it. Take this illness as your body's cry for help (and a break).
Wash Your Hands
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's so important! Even more so during cold and flu season. Wash your hands, and wash them often, especially after being in public spaces like on the subway or in a grocery store. Plus, if you've already caught the bug, it'll prevent you from spreading it.
When you're stressed, your immune system is shot and you're a prime candidate for bacteria and sickness. Fortunately, there are so many natural ways to reduce stress and relieve anxiety to keep your immune system strong and stable. Try drinking tea, taking a hot bath, meditating, or diffusing oils.
Added bonus: self-care and de-stressing will help you recover more quickly, too.
Take a Steamy Shower
Steam up the bathroom and take a hot shower to alleviate congestion and soothe aches. And you'll kill more germs while you're at it.
Avoid Sick Friends
If your friend is coming down with something, you can bring them soup, but it's probably best not to cuddle up and binge-watch Netflix together. And your SO with the flu? Maybe save the kissing for when they've turned a corner and are germ-free.
Similarly, if you're the sick friend, stay at home. Please. For all of us.
Drink Water. Then Drink Some More.
Chances are, even if you think you've had enough water, you're probably still not adequately hydrated. Just keep drinking (water), OK?
Don't let the cold weather get in the way of your gains! A boosted immune system is just one of the many benefits of exercise. However, if you're starting to feel any symptoms below the neck, like body aches or a chesty cough, it's best to skip the workout.
Try Immunity-Boosting Yoga
Still bolstering your immune system? These five poses might help you stave off a cold.
If It's Already Hit, Rest
Feel an unusual twinge in the back of your throat? Nose stuffing up a bit? Don't push yourself. You have a better chance of recovering if you rest, and you definitely don't want to worsen your symptoms. And (in line with our other advice) staying at home will further prevent the spread of germs.
As with washing your hands, you'll want to keep your home and office disinfected as much as possible. If you have holiday guests coming in from out of town, this is especially important! Shared space = shared germs. Keep tidy and keep any bugs out of your immune system.
Use All the Essential Oils
So many oils, so little time. A few of our favorites:
- Peppermint: Did you know peppermint oil can help alleviate headaches and pain? Put a few drops into a diffuser or some boiling water and inhale the soothing fragrance.
- Tea tree: Dip a Q-tip in some tea tree oil and swab your throat. Just trust us on this one.
- Eucalyptus: Rub a little in your palms and then cup your nose to inhale. It'll open up your respiratory tract and could even help kill bacteria.
- Oregano: A hugely popular immune booster, you may recognize this oil from some of your favorite immune-boosting elixirs and shots. It's antiviral, antifungal, and an antioxidant.
Make a DIY Throat Spray
Using tea and some natural ingredients, you can make your own sore throat reliever. Feeling less crafty? Try a simple warm-water salt gargle.
Find the Right Supplements
Vitamin D3, vitamin C, glutathione, and zinc are popular immune fortifiers that may help prevent an illness or kick one you've already come down with.
Eat Immunity-Boosting Foods
We'll get into specific examples in a second, but in general, warm yourself up with some green tea or bite into juicy citrus — your body will need immunity-boosting foods to help fight off viruses in the cold months. We like adding ginger and lemon to our tea for an extra cold-fighting punch.
Go For Easily Digestible Protein
Regardless of your current health situation, your body needs the strength from protein. But if you're sick, your digestion might be a bit slower and trickier than usual.
Try eggs or yogurt (particularly this exceptionally simple preparation).
Get Flavonoids From Citrus Fruits
As you may know, vitamin C may not shorten the duration of your illness, but you should still reach for a grapefruit or orange. You can boost your immune system with flavonoids, compounds found in the soft white skin of oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. Make it taste even better with this simple recipe for broiled grapefruit.
Eat Some Kale For Infection-Fighting Glutathione
Drink Lots of Soup and Broth
Get brothy. Whether you're sick or trying to avoid the flu like the plague, clear broths like miso, chicken or veggie broth, and beef bouillon will keep you hydrated and are easy to digest if you don't have much of an appetite.
Feeling a little hungry? Add chunks of veggies, whole grains like barley, and some kind of lean protein to tack on extra vitamins and nutrients. The hot liquids do double duty by warming the body from chills and also opening up sinus passages to relieve congestion.
Eat These B6- and B12-Rich Foods
Look for fish, turkey, milk, spinach, potatoes, nutritional yeast, and fortified soy milk and cereals to get plenty of vitamins B6 and B12. They are healing nutrients that help with your body's basic functions while you're under the weather.
In a German study, the probiotics in yogurt were found to shorten colds and the flu by almost two days. Look specifically for bacterial strains lactobacillus casei or lactobacillus reuteri; these two are linked to improving immune response. Icelandic yogurt is a great option since it also contains tons of protein per serving.
Drink Beverages — Lots of Them
Even with a suppressed appetite, ensure you're taking in plenty of fluids. An all-natural ginger ale and peppermint or ginger tea could do the trick for an upset stomach, while electrolyte-infused beverages are a great choice if you are making frequent trips to the bathroom.
Ahead we have plenty of healthy, fortifying elixirs you can whip up while you're under the weather (or while you're building your antiflu fortress at home).
Juice This Immunity Tonic
Full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and antiviral power, this immunity-boosting juice shot has the power to heal a sore throat, soothe an upset stomach, or prevent bugs from getting worse. This is exactly what Lorna Jane Clarkson, the founder of Lorna Jane Activewear, sips on when she's feeling under the weather.
Steep Some Fresh Ginger Tea
To clear up congestion or a sore throat, we love this old family recipe for fresh ginger and lemongrass tea. As an added bonus, this recipe also works to soothe an upset tummy!
Gargle an Apple Cider Vinegar Brew
If you're working with a sinus infection, just one inhale of this warming, pungent drink will help you breathe easy through your nose and feel less cloudy in your head. A helping of apple cider vinegar (ACV) brew soothes your symptoms with cayenne's anti-inflammatory powers, while the vinegar boosts your immunity.
Sip Some Soothing Golden Milk
Golden milk certainly cures all, doesn't it? This turmeric milk blend is an ancient Indian remedy with antimicrobial properties that can stop viruses (like common respiratory infections) before they wreak havoc on your immune system. Sipping on this blend can also do some digestive wonders if you have nausea or an upset stomach.
Detox With a Cranberry Cleanse
Actress Nikki Reed swears by this cranberry cleanse for a little daily detox, and this antioxidant-rich drink is also effective when you're feeling under the weather. The cranberry and lemon juice in this recipe support your kidney and liver and help flush out toxins from your system.
Sip a Hot Toddy
Whatever works, right? The classic hot toddy is one of the healthiest low-calorie cocktails for the holiday season. With the help of citrus, honey, and cinnamon (all great things), some people swear by this one as a sure-fire remedy to knock out a cold.
Grab a Medicine Ball
No energy to make something soothing yourself? The Starbucks secret menu Medicine Ball is no longer a secret. You can get this deliciously medicinal tea, lemon, and honey blend at any location for a quick shot of heat and healing straight to the sinuses and throat — made to order.