March 26, 2019.
Colds and flu happen, but according to the latest research, there are several ways to protect yourself and decrease your chances of getting infected.
Fall and winter are notoriously known as nasty cold and flu seasons, but it’s possible to get these viruses any time of year. A few years back, Texas scientists explained that flu pandemics could occur right after the cold-weather flu season, in the spring and summer, when we lose our temporary immunity.
Getting sick isn’t just an inconvenience. It can cost us in time at work and take away from our families. Thankfully, there are at least six proven steps to help you stay ahead of it and prevent it.
6 sure ways to beat the odds in flu season
Seventy-one percent of parents use non-evidence-based folklore remedies to keep their family healthy, but these are the tips that work:
1. Get your flu shot already.
This is the one you want to get out of the way as soon as you can. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
“The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year… The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.”
After getting a flu shot, you’ll start to develop flu antibodies within roughly two weeks. These antibodies come from the viruses in the flu vaccine, and they’re what your body needs to fight off infection. You can find the CDC’s rundown of flu shot options here — like the different vaccines and nasal spray recommended for anyone six months and older.
The latest research shows that plenty of parents are still skeptical. Over half believe that the flu shot could give their child the virus. But in 2017, Canadian researchers found that children who were vaccinated against the flu were much less likely to be hospitalized because of serious complications.
Flu shots aren’t a 100-percent guarantee, but they can help minimize symptoms, severity, and related hospitalizations and deaths. Getting a good flu “match” between the vaccine and the virus that’s spreading locally, along with your age and health status, also play into your likelihood of getting infected. Flu shot match can depend on season and could lower your risk of visiting the doctor by 60 percent.
2. Get to disinfecting.
If you get sick out of nowhere, you might’ve picked up a virus on any number of surfaces — including paper, glass, fabric, plastic, and metal. It’s possible that the flu virus could survive on one of these surfaces for a prolonged time period, up to several months.
When cleaning, start with some of the biggest offenders, like toothbrush holders, faucet handles, kids’ toys, device screens, desks and common spaces, and TV remotes likely to spread germs around the house. And remember that when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting, there’s a difference: Cleaning removes germs and dirt; disinfecting kills them. Commercial disinfectants work well and, at the right concentration, natural cleaners like vinegar can kill tuberculosis and other pathogens.
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3. Get good hygiene.
Touching your face after touching a surface that’s been contaminated makes it easy for viruses to spread. These viruses can enter the respiratory tract through the mouth, nose, or eyes. So, like you tell your kids, washing hands well and often is critically important to keep infection at bay. After the World Health Organization’s (WHO) six-step handwashing process beat out the CDC’s three-step process in 2016, the CDC now recommends five-step handwashing to protect the whole family.
Taking extra steps may take a few minutes longer, but thorough handwashing could reduce the risk of colds for most people by up to 21 percent. It also cuts down on more than half of school absences caused by gastrointestinal illness.
4. Get some exercise.
Staying active is one way to stay out from under the weather. A UW-Madison study conducted on 390 adults found that participants were healthier — and less likely to miss work — when they practiced either exercise or meditation. Compared to the control group, the exercisers saw 15-percent better results when it came to doctors’ visits and illness length. The meditators surpassed both groups by 17 percent. For older adults, practicing traditional Chinese exercises like Qigong and Taiji might also ramp up immunity and make the flu shot more effective.
Bruce Barrett, a family medicine doctor at UW Health and head researcher on the exercise and meditation study, said:
“Until [more] research is done, we feel justified in advocating for both mindfulness and exercise because benefits appear likely, and there are minimal risks.”
5. Get more zinc.
There are dozens of reasons to love zinc’s immune-boosting ability, but here are some of the biggest:
- Taking zinc could reduce the common cold’s severity and duration.
- Zinc lozenges might increase the recovery rate from the common cold three-fold.
- Zinc curbs the inflammatory immune response to control potentially deadly infections.
The body doesn’t produce zinc on its own, so it must come from a supplement or diet. To get three-fold recovery, zinc must be taken at a higher dose than what you’d find in many drugstore lozenges.
Dr. Harri Hemilä, lead author on the 2017 Open Forum Infectious Diseases study, said:
“Given the strong evidence of efficacy and the low risk of adverse effects, common cold patients may already be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges not exceeding 100 mg of elemental zinc per day for treating their colds.”
6. Get picky about your plate.
Now you have the perfect excuse for not sharing food. Eating communal food, like what you’d find in a breakroom, is a definite no-no in places where colds and flu are being spread. It’s also a good idea to avoid the breakroom pastries and make some changes to your diet. Increasing fiber in the form of fresh fruits and veggies isn’t just a smart move to prevent chronic disease — a high-fiber diet sets a healthy immune response and wards off the flu virus.
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For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.
Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.