According to the CDC, the 2017-2018 flu season has been particularly severe, with around 35 million cases diagnosed, resulting in 700,000 hospitalizations and as many as 56,000 deaths. (1)
While many of these deaths were reported among individuals considered highly susceptible to complications, including children, the elderly, and people struggling with certain chronic illnesses, others struck were young and in excellent health. (2)
It’s impossible to predict what the next flu season will bring. This is why it is so important to learn how to go ahead and prepare yourself for the cold and flu seasons to come. To make this easy for you, we’ve prepared a list of the best tips available regarding how to get ready for future cold and flu seasons.
Keep sick-day supplies on hand
While there is a flu season, the same cannot be said for colds. As a result, you need to be ready to fight a cold at any time. To prepare yourself for both the cold and the flu, you should keep an easily accessible supply of:
- Tissues, paper towels, hand soap, and hand sanitizer
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, cough syrup, and decongestants to help alleviate your symptoms; be sure to check the expiration date
- Additional supplies for relieving symptoms, such as throat lozenges or sprays, vapor rubs, cough drops, saline nose drops, a clean humidifier, and muscle gels for aches and pains
- A working thermometer
- Healthy drinks and comfort foods, including warm teas, juice, broth, and canned soup
- Lozenges designed to relieve symptoms and decrease the duration of your illness
- Interesting items that will help distract you from the way you are feeling, such as movies, games, and books.
Get the flu vaccine every single year
Vaccinating yourself ensures that not only will you be much, much better defended from getting sick, you will also help reduce the spread of the disease. As stated already, most flu-related deaths are children, the elderly, and the disabled.
While you may not ever feel sick, it is still possible to pass the flu onto to other people, especially those at greatest risk. Getting the flu vaccine protects you, and everyone around you too!
wash your hands
Germy hands provide plenty of opportunities to spread the cold and flu. Be sure to wash thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds and teach your family members to do the same. One rule of thumb used even by doctors is to sing the Alphabet Song to yourself while scrubbing.
Also, be sure to have hand sanitizer in case you aren’t able to wash your hands. For the best results, the CDC suggests using a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. (3)
Disinfect frequently-touched items
This is especially true if you or someone you love is already sick. These items include doorknobs, phones, remote controls, and car door handles. Be sure you do this at home, in the car, AND at work.
Tailor Your Diet to Boost Immune Health
There are certain immune-boosting foods that you should make sure are part of your regular diet. If you start to feel like you may be coming down with something, it’s a good idea to increase your intake.
According to information made available by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, some of the top foods for building up your defense against colds and flu are: (4)
Oily fish, including mackerel, salmon, and tuna, which are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent inflammation, allowing your immune system to work optimally.
Oysters, which contain more zinc, an essential mineral with a proven history of fighting off the common cold, than any other food.
Garlic, an excellent source of potent antioxidants that help fight off invaders.
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, that include plenty of vitamin C and may reduce the duration of the common cold by a full day when consumed at the first sign of illness. (5)
Yogurt, which contains probiotics that help replenish strains of beneficial bacteria in your body.
Tea, whether it’s white, black, or green, contains catechins (an antioxidant that may provide flu-fighting properties) and helps break up congestion. (6)
Milk, an excellent source of vitamin D that gives your immune system a boost when the sun’s rays interact with your skin cells.
Dress appropriately in cooler weather
According to Yale University researchers, your mom was right when she said you needed to wear a coat to keep from getting sick in the cold. (7) Apparently, the cold virus replicates quicker in colder temperatures.
Plus, cells in your body have a much harder time fighting off viruses when exposed to cold temperatures. In addition to your coat, put on a hat, gloves, and scarf when the temperature drops too low.
Maintain a healthy, active lifestyle
Healthy habits can also boost your immune system. After all, it’s much easier for your body to protect itself and fight off viruses when it’s well rested, hydrated, and full of healthy foods. On the other hand, bad habits will leave you run down and fatigued, weakening your immune system.
Minimize the spread of germs
If at all possible, stay away from others that are sick, whether you are at work, school, or home. (You’ll know there is a good chance they are sick if they are constantly sneezing and coughing, sweating, or just look like they could have a cold or the flu.)
If you must be around them, be sure to limit your contact, stay as far away as possible, and frequently wash your hands. (You may also want to ask them to wear a mask to keep virus-carrying droplets from getting on you if they cough or sneeze.) Be sure to teach these things to other family members.
Take a high-quality, immune-boosting supplement
There is a wide array of supplements on the market that are designed to enhance your immune system. Do your research using the one that best meets your needs.
Obviously, a flu vaccine is the most important way you can defend yourself (and others!) from the flu. Unfortunately, there is no cold vaccine, so it is important to minimize your exposure to germs to some extent while also strengthening your own immune system.
Zinc and other supplements can be your friends in this regard, as can a healthy lifestyle and doing your research.