As summer comes to a close, the pandemic still lingers on. Meanwhile, flu season is rearing its ugly head, threatening us with more infectious diseases. Each year, millions of Americans get sick with influenza, a viral infection that affects the lungs, throat, and sinuses. While the flu virus is typically a year-round bug, it often begins to surge in October and peaks between December and February. So, what can you do to prepare? Well, this year, in particular, you’ll want to incorporate some preventative measures. You may also want to boost your immunity to give yourself a fighting chance.
Why you need to prepare now
Last year, over 39 million people were struck with influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 26,000 required medical visits, while 740,000 required hospitalization, and almost 62,000 died. It’s because of figures like these you need to prepare now and supercharge your immune system before flu season hits. Plus, with the added bonus of coronavirus threatening a second (and maybe even third) wave, according to leading disease experts, it may be a particularly harsh year. So, doing these five things now could potentially protect you from the flu and common cold.
Keep doing what you’re doing to stop Covid-19
There’s a tiny glimmer of hope that perhaps this flu season may not be as severe as the following years. While health experts can’t say for sure how lightly or heavily influenza takes hold, they can look towards the South Hemisphere for flu-like patterns. So far, Australia and South Africa both report lower numbers than usual, says Kristin Englund MD., infectious disease specialist for Cleveland Clinic. This year the flu virus and coronavirus are spreading similarly. Therefore, wearing masks, frequently washing hands, and physical distancing — all of which work to contain coronavirus — may also work to contain influenza. This sheds a whole new light on why it’s important to continue with the protocols designed to contain and stop the spread of coronavirus. By continuing to wear masks, practicing good hygiene, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and maintaining social distancing, you could lessen and even prevent the spread of the flu.
Stock your medicine cabinet now
If you get the sniffles and suspect you are at the onset of the flu, stay home until you feel better to avoid spreading it on to others. Keep your medicine cabinet stocked with things that will help reduce fever, coughs, and muscle aches. In addition, make sure you have a good thermometer on hand to keep track of your temperature. But remember, a fever, although uncomfortable, is a sign that your immune response is effective. So, don’t panic unless your fever reaches high numbers and is accompanied by symptoms like chest pain, breathing difficulty, severe headache, and confusion. In addition, if you have a history of an underlying condition that places you at greater risk for severe illness, then consider keeping a pulse oximeter in your medicine cabinet to measure the oxygen level in your blood.
Increase your indoor humidity
When the air in your home is dry, rather than a little humid, viruses, live longer. In addition, dry air makes it harder for noses and lungs to purge themselves of viruses. Not only that, dry air may hinder your immune system’s ability to fight infections. A study published in the journal PLOS One found that low humidity was linked to flu outbreaks in even mild climates. When researchers studied children in properly humidified classrooms, viruses lowered by 66 percent. However, the key is to maintain the correct amount of moisture in the air. Too much humidity can also be harmful to health.
Get plenty of quality sleep
Experts have always believed that poor sleep increases your likelihood of catching the common cold since bedtime is when your body works to heal itself. Researchers studied the link between sleep and viruses through 153 healthy men and women, between the ages of 21 to 55 years. For 14 days, participants reported how long and how well they slept. They were then administered nasal drops that contained a rhinovirus. After being exposed to a clinical cold, they were quarantined and monitored one day before and five days after developing symptoms. Researchers found that those who had previously experienced poor sleep had a lower resistance to the rhinovirus illness.
Add immunity-boosting foods to your diet
The right diet can do wonders to keep you healthy because certain foods naturally boost immunity. So, if you want to prevent catching this season’s cold, flu, and other viruses, add these foods to your shopping list.
- Foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, spinach, and red bell peppers
- Nutrient-dense broccoli, loaded with vitamins A, C, and E, along with antioxidants and fiber.
- Garlic, which contains compounds that helps your immune system fight pathogens.
- Ginger, which helps fight inflammation, the root cause of many diseases and illnesses.
- Almonds, which are loaded with immune-boosting vitamin E.
- Green tea, which is packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that enhances immune function.
- Turmeric, which is one of the best spices you can consume for protecting your immune system prior to cold and flu season. Studies show that turmeric actually stimulates the immune system to fight various flu viruses.
Lastly, remember that the flu and coronavirus produce similar symptoms, like muscle aches, cough, fever, and shortness of breath. So, if you or a family member develop any of these symptoms, call your doctor ASAP. They can advise you on the next step and inform you if influenza or COVID-19 testing is needed. Stay safe.