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15 Ways to Survive the Cold and Flu Season

11/18/2010 1:28:00 PM

Tags: colds, cold, flu, illness, sick, natural remedies, exercise, sleep, antioxidants, vitamin d, humidifier, gargle, salt water, cough, relax, cold medicine, stress, herbs

Cold and flu season is officially upon us. With the holidays right around the corner and a busy schedule knocking down your door, now is no time to get sick! Bypass the cold and flu season this year with natural remedies, herbal supplements, TLC and a little common sense. These 15 tips will help you out! 

sick in scrabble letters 
Don't get sick this year! Avoid the cold and flu season with these 15 tips. Photo By TheGiantVermin/Courtesy Flickr. 

1. Wash your hands. It might be cliche, but good hygiene goes a long way.

2. Aim for the elbow. Even if you wash your hands right after coughing on them, you're still likely to spread germs in the process. Cough into your elbow.

3. Keep your hands off your face! Cold and flu germs enter the body most easily through mucus membranes around the nose, eyes and mouth, so keeping your hands away from these areas will lower your chances of getting sick.

4. Be a clean freak. Cold and flu viruses may be lurking on often-touched surfaces in your home. Wipe these surfaces down with a homemade disinfecting cleaner made from vinegar

5. Be anti-social. Large crowds and public surfaces are hot-beds of cold and flu germs. Avoiding these two can lessen your chances of getting sick.

heirloom tomatoes 
Eating foods rich in antioxidants such as tomatoes can help prevent illness. Photo By Susy Morris/Courtesy Flickr. 

6. Exercise. Moderate exercise boosts immune function and can help you recover from a cold faster. Intense exercise has the opposite effect, however, so remember to not over-stress yourself.

7. Don't short yourself on sleep. A study last year found that people who sleep fewer than seven hours each night are three times more likely to catch a cold. While you sleep, your body repairs itself and recharges its immune system. If you're not getting enough sleep, you're not allowing your body the time it needs to recharge, leaving your immune system vulnerable.

8. Humidify! Cold viruses prefer dry conditions (one reason this illness is more prevalent in winter), so keeping the air moist can help keep colds at bay. Add moisture to your indoor air through a humidifier—just be wary of mold and bacteria. Replace the water daily and clean the humidifier out every few days with soap and water.

9. Up your antioxidants. Eating healthy plays a major role in immune function. Add antioxidant-rich foods to your diet such as leafy greens, berries and even tea for an extra boost of free-radical-fighting agents.

10. Get enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D strengthens the immune system, so not getting enough of this essential hormone—a likely scenario in winter, given the sun's weak rays—could leave you susceptible to the cold and flu. Take a Vitamin D supplement regulated to 1,000 or 2,000 international units daily.

 women performing yoga 
Moderate exercise and relaxation can help keep your immune system strong. Photo By lululemon athletica/Courtesy Flickr. 

11. Supplement with herbal remedies. Boost your immune system and fight cold-causing viruses with a little help from the herbal world. Echinacea, garlic, oregano and other plants are known for their immune boosting properties.

12. Relax. Stress can weaken your immune system and leave you vulnerable to illness. The holidays in particular can cause elevated stress. Learn to relax with these stress relief strategies.

13. Gargle with salt water. Salt draws out the fluid causing your itchy, scratchy throat and helps kill bacteria. Add half a teaspoon of salt to a glass of water and throw your head back. This may dry your throat out, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids and humidify.

14. Leave over-the-counter remedies on the shelf. Decongestants and pain relievers target the symptoms but don't fight the root of the problem. Continued use of these drugs can produce a "rebound effect" after you've stopped using them in which the mucous membranes swell, leading to an even worse runny nose. If you do take over-the-counter drugs, carefully read the labels to make sure you're not doubling up on any drugs, such as acetaminophen.

15. Using natural remedies to treat your symptoms. All you need to soothe that sore throat, runny nose and aching muscles is right in your kitchen. Treat your symptoms to these natural remedies while letting the cold run its course.

Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on .

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