6 Flu Fighters Beyond the Vaccine

6 Flu Fighters Beyond the Vaccine

Doctor-approved tips for keeping your family healthy through cold and flu season.

By: Maressa Brown

With colder weather comes more time spent inside, and we all know what that means: higher chances of getting sick! Seasonal influenza affects 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And of course, most of us can’t get through the fall and winter without a run-in with the common cold.

So you may want to take precautions like getting the flu vaccine. “The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year,” says Lisa Esolen, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. “The shot is designed to defend against the top three or four flu viruses that research shows will cause the most illness during the flu season.”

Here, six more ways you and your family can help fight colds and flu.

1. Make sure you’re sanitizing your hands properly. We hear every year that hand washing is crucial, but that’s because it is so helpful. “Wash your hands regularly or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to reduce the spread of germs,” says Dr. Esolen. Regular hand washing can reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses by 21 percent, notes the CDC.

2. Target germs in the home. Just as we want to reduce the number of germs on our hands, we also want to kill off as many as we can that are lurking around in our homes. “Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is sick,” says Dr. Esolen. Remember that not all cleaning products are made equal: You’ll want to double check that the cleaning product you’re using is indeed a disinfectant.

3. Eat virus-busting foods. Certain foods can help your immune system fend off potential invaders. “Studies have shown that some foods such as chicken soup and various mushroom varieties (reishi, maitake, and shiitake) actually can boost your immune system!” notes Dr. Esolen. “Also, stick with a diet that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables.”


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4. Reduce your stress level. Ever notice how you seem to come down with a bug after a particularly grueling week? That’s because stress causes us to have higher levels of stress hormones, which in turn, can reduce the ability to fend off colds and flu. What can help: “Lowering your stress level through relaxation techniques and daily moderate exercise can lower the adrenaline and cortisol levels in the body, which can negatively influence the function of our immune system,” explains Dr. Esolen.

5. Make sure to get a good night’s rest. This, of course, goes hand-in-hand with no. 4.Most experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep per night for overall health and wellbeing,” says Dr. Esolen.

6. Know when to call it a day. Many of us want to power through the day when we get sick, but it’s best to lie low at home -- especially if you have the flu. “If you do become sick with the flu, you should stay home from work or school to prevent spreading it to others,” she explains.

What measures do you plan to take this year to fight flu and colds?

Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.

Image ©iStock.com/aloha_17

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