Summer has definitely come to an end and it’s time for fall to take over. While most of us think about colorful leaves, cozy jumpers, and hot chocolate, fall also brings some not-so-pleasant things like the cold and flu season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 35 million flu-related illnesses, 16 million flu-related medical visits, 380,000 flu-related hospitalizations, and 20,000 flu-related deaths in 2019-2020.
While most of the flu symptoms can be relieved, nobody wants to be a sneezing, coughing, achy mess. To help you avoid that, we’ve compiled a list of 7 ways to protect yourself during the cold and flu season.
1. Get vaccinated.
The best and most efficient way to protect yourself against the flu is to get a flu shot. Each year experts gather and try to predict the strains that will be the most common in the coming flu season, which is what makes them so effective.
Epidemiologists agree that nearly everyone is a candidate for the flu shot. Only those with serious medical issues for whom vaccination is contraindicated should avoid it. There’s a solution even for those who are allergic to eggs: some modern vaccines don’t contain traces of egg protein. Of course, this is something you should discuss with your doctor.
If the needle is what scares you, there is now a nasal mist you can use instead. This form of protection is advised only for people that are 50 and younger because the nasal mist doesn’t have enough antigens to produce antibodies.
2. Wash your hands frequently.
How do viruses spread, anyway? Here’s a common scenario: your neighbor, unaware that they’re sick, coughs into their hand on their way out of the building. They touch the door handle and the virus lingers on that surface. You follow behind them, touching the same door handle and voilà – you’re infected as well.
That’s why you should wash your hands frequently. If you don’t have access to soap and water, you can also use a hand sanitizer in the meantime until you’re able to wash your hands. It’s best to choose a sanitizer that is alcohol-based or contains naturally antibacterial oils such as lemon, geranium, or thyme.
3. Avoid touching your face or biting your nails.
Those little habits of touching your eyes, putting your finger on your nose, or biting your nails can cost you quite a bit. This is how the virus can get into your system. No matter how often you wash your hands, the virus will always find a way in if you keep touching your face.
Now, breaking these rituals is quite difficult, but it all comes down to motivation. You can try to keep your hands busy with a fidget spinner or a stress ball. If you touch your face because your hair is getting in the way, pin it back.
Finally, if you do really need to touch your face, use a clean tissue.
4. Eat healthy food and stay hydrated.
It can be hard to resist eating a slice of pizza from time to time, but you shouldn’t make unhealthy eating a habit. Aside from the fact it’s just not good for your body to constantly eat fast food, your immune system will have difficulties fighting off infection if it has to compensate for poor nutrition.
So, instead of ordering a burger for lunch, try to incorporate more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your diet. Your body will thank you.
Also, don’t forget to drink your daily recommended amount of water. Sure, water can’t fight the flu – but staying hydrated helps keep the mucus membranes of your nasal passages moist so they can catch the virus before it enters your body.
5. Clean your phone.
You wouldn’t believe how much dirt is on your phone right now. If you go to YouTube and search for “phone cleaning,“ you’ll get an idea of what we’re talking about. It’s not just dirt that clings onto your phone, but viruses and germs as well.
The biggest problem with that is that we hold these devices right up to our faces, which increases our chances of getting an infection. And it’s not just our phones: it’s also our keyboards, light switches, doorknobs – basically all the surfaces we frequently touch.
Solving this issue is easy. All you need to do is clean those surfaces at least once a week and you stand a better chance of keeping illness at bay.
6. Use the humidifier.
The winter air is typically very dry, which is why people typically decide to buy a humidifier. But, there’s another advantage to using humidifiers – they can also help you during the flu season.
Viruses have a hard time spreading around in humid air conditions. Try to maintain a level between 45% and 50% relative humidity. This will help you curb the spread of viruses and germs.
7. Avoid stressful situations.
If you frequently find yourself in stressful situations during your work or private life, try to take steps to change that. Stress doesn’t only take its toll on emotional and psychological health: it also suppresses your immune system, which is in charge of fighting off the flu.
Of course, you can’t always switch your environment but you can try to change the way you perceive the world around you. Incorporate self-care habits like brief walks outdoors, meditation and taking up a hobby to relieve stress. This will ultimately help you gain a new perspective on things and improve your immune system as well.
As you can see, there are many ways you can protect yourself from the flu. Most of them are easy to incorporate into your daily routine and require little to no effort.
And if you get ill, remember – it’s part of life and sometimes, you just won’t be able to avoid it. Just remember to consult your doctor, try to keep from spreading illness yourself and get plenty of rest.