Preventing Winter Illnesses: Tips for Avoiding Cold and Flu

Nobody has time to be sick. Fortunately, you can take steps to help keep common winter illnesses away.

  1. Get your flu shot. Thousands of Americans end up hospitalized each year because of the flu. If you haven’t already been vaccinated this year, it isn’t too late. Get a flu shot to help prevent the flu because no one wants fever, chills or body aches.
  2. Avoid shaking hands. Respiratory illnesses such as the cold and flu pass easily from person to person. Who knows whether the person you’re greeting has an illness, or has come in contact with germs? If shaking hands is a regular part of your work life, make sure that each time you shake hands, you wash your hands. Even if you aren’t shaking hands, wash your hands routinely throughout the day.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. You may think sleep is expendable, but it’s actually even more important than usual during cold and flu season. When your body is tasked with fending off illness every day, it needs all the sleep it can get. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.
  4. Get your workout on. Regular physical activity benefits the body in a variety of ways — protecting both physical and mental health. It’ll help lower your blood pressure, manage your weight and reduce your stress levels. Exercise also has specific benefits when it comes to fending off illness by improving circulation and strengthening the immune system, which are key parts of staying cold- and flu-free.
  5. Eat up. Everyone should aim to eat a diet filled with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. But if you want to give your immune system an extra shot of goodness, add foods containing vitamin C (citrus fruits, spinach, bell peppers), vitamin E (broccoli, spinach, almonds, peanuts), vitamin B6 (bananas, chicken, tuna, potatoes), vitamin A (carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin), vitamin D (fatty fish, fortified foods), and zinc (yogurt, oysters, chickpeas).
  6. Don’t touch your face. When you touch something and pick up germs, touching your eyes, mouth or nose with your hands can spread the germs and cause illness. In fact, that’s one of the most common ways for germs to enter the body.
  7. Try to stay away from sick people. This isn’t always possible but, if you can, steer clear of people who are sick. If you can’t, use sanitizing wipes on commonly touched areas (like doorknobs, phones and light switches). Also, repeated from #2, wash your hands often. If you’re the one who’s sick, stay home.