6 Natural Prevention Methods for Cold and Flu Season
Every year, cold and flu season arrives before any of us are ready. The good news is that you can incorporate easy preventive techniques into your routine. By doing so, you have a good chance of lowering your risk for sharing germs with everyone else this winter. Here are a few holistic strategies to try as the weather cools off.
1. Avoid constant exposure to large crowds
It’s no surprise that avoiding groups of people during the germiest season is one of the best ways to prevent the sharing of airborne viruses. Cold and flu viruses are more easily spread in confined spaces, where there’s little ventilation and a lot of people breathing, sneezing, and coughing. This doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit all winter, but forgoing crowds as a regular part of your lifestyle during the winter may be a good idea. If you happen to have a weaker immune system, consider wearing a mask when you’re in these environments.
2. Wash your hands frequently
The top method of health optimization year-round is to wash your hands. The best approach is to wash them for 15-20 seconds in warm, soapy water. Before eating, after using the restroom, and when you get home, are some of the critical times to wash your hands. Try not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes when you’re out and about to prevent the introduction of germs to your mucus membranes.
3. Wipe down surfaces regularly
Keep surfaces clean that you come in frequent contact with - like doorknobs, countertops, car doors, phones, toys, and light switches. The flu virus can survive on nonporous surfaces for 24-48 hours.
4. Make healthy food choices
All of the nagging your mom did growing up about eating fruits and vegetables - or perhaps the nagging you’ve done to your own kids about it - has turned out to be a great idea. Fruits and vegetables are especially high in antioxidants and other bioactive compounds, which can boost immunity and help prevent the onset of cold and flu symptoms. Keep fresh or frozen produce stocked in your kitchen throughout the winter months, for easy snacking, adding to oatmeal, or blending up into smoothies and sauces.
5. Prioritize your sleep
Research shows that your body undergoes a significant amount of repair and refueling while you sleep. Getting in a bedtime routine of laying down, and waking up, around the same time each day is a great way to make sure your body is getting enough rest. The ideal amount of sleep is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours per night. Midlife women who have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or frequently wake due to hot flashes and night sweats need to target the higher end of the range. If you’re experiencing poor sleep due to menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, check out our tips.
If you find that you have trouble feeling tired enough to go to bed at the same time each night, incorporate a regular exercise routine into your day. Just make sure you don’t exercise too close to bedtime. Sometimes reading in the evening can help too, whereas scrolling on your phone or watching TV tends to make it harder for your brain to calm down at night. Also, the blue light from devices interferes with our circadian rhythms.
6. Get your flu shot
The flu shot becomes available in the Fall, and you can get it in numerous places like your drugstore for cheap or free with some insurance coverage. While some people say that they tend to get sick even during years that they get a flu shot, research shows that the flu shot can reduce your risk of the illness by between 40-60%. As we age, our immune system gets weaker and is slower to respond. People who smoke, consume excessive amounts of alcohol, or are overweight are more vulnerable to colds and flu.
Incorporating some of these every day ideas into your winter routine - and even all year long - can help you stay healthier through the germiest of seasons.
For more natural tips to support your health through menopause and beyond, join the community over at Lisa Health!
Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, and speaker who helps families transition to plant-based lifestyles. She can be found at laurenpanoff.com or on Instagram @chronicplanet.