As the weather starts to cool down, the kids return to school, and everyone’s schedules get busier, it’s easy to let your healthy habits slip. But with cold and flu season just around the corner, now is not the time to let your guard down.
You’re probably already familiar with the basics of staying healthy during cold and flu season, but here are a few reminders:
Wash Your Hands Often
One of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce the spread of germs is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
Be sure to wash your hands:
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Before and after eating or preparing food
- After using the restroom
- After touching common surfaces like doorknobs, railings, or countertops
- If your hands are visibly dirty
Also, be mindful about not touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Eat Healthy Food
What you eat each day plays a big role in how well your immune system functions.
To optimize your immune health, include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet, and reduce or minimize your sugary foods and drinks intake.
Stay hydrated with water or tea instead of alcohol, sugary juices, and soda.
Additionally, probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi may help to support a healthy gut, which is essential for a strong immune system.
Exercise is not just for building big muscles. It also helps to reduce stress, improve sleep, and support a healthy immune system.
Even if you can’t make it to the gym, there are plenty of other ways to stay active.
Take a quick walk around the neighborhood, swim, or try a yoga or dance class. Play outside with your friends, kids, or grandkids, go for a fun bike ride, or take the dog for a longer-than-usual walk.
Look for an activity you enjoy so that you’re more likely to stick with it.
Get Enough Good Sleep
If you don’t get enough sleep each night, or if your sleep is disrupted or disordered, it can significantly affect your physical and mental health, including your immune system.
Most adults need 7-8 hours of good sleep each night. That means uninterrupted sleep in a cool, dark, and quiet room.
If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, there are a few things you can try:
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends
- Avoid or limit caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the evening
- Avoid using electronic devices in bed
- Create a relaxing evening or bedtime routine, such as reading or taking a bath
- If you’re still having trouble, talk to a doctor or sleep specialist about possible causes and treatments.
Chronic emotional stress can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness.
That’s why it’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress in your life.
Everyone has different stressors and different ways of coping, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
But some healthy coping mechanisms include:
- Creative hobbies (painting, music, writing, etc.)
- Sports, games, and physical activities
- Mindfulness meditation or prayer
- Spending time in nature
- Talking to friends and loved ones
These are just a few of the many things you can do to stay healthy during cold and flu season. Taking a few easy precautions can help keep yourself and those around you healthy and safe.