Sara Klimek

December is right around the corner— filled with holiday lights, eggnog and the occasional snowfall.  But joy and cheer aren’t the only things running rampant.  Consistent coughs, sore throats and body aches can prevent you from getting all of your holiday shopping done and put a damper on your mood.

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Luckily, there are ways you can bolster your immune system in preparation for cold and flu season.  Here are seven bSmart tips to keep your body in check and ready for whatever the season has to throw at you.

Stay up-to-date on your flu shots and vaccines.  

Health experts release flu vaccines based on what strains they expect will be most prevalent in a given year.  This means that you should get your flu shot on an annual basis.  You should also plan to keep up with your non-flu vaccines, like pneumonia, Tdap, and shingles to maintain a strong immune system and keep yourself and the people around you healthy.

Wash your hands regularly.  

This is something your teachers tell you in kindergarten, but it’s still just as relevant today.  You can use warm or cold water with antibacterial soap, and be sure to wash for at least twenty seconds!  Completely dry your hands after finishing, for this can reduce your risk of transferring bacteria from your newly-clean hands.  Health officials recommend that you wash your hands after being in contact with pets or sick people, before preparing/eating food, and after using the bathroom.

Sharing isn’t always caring.  

Avoid sharing beverages, cups and chap-stick— there’s an unbelievable amount of bacteria in saliva! Even items that you don’t share like your phone can grow a ton of bacteria; try to wipe down commonly-touched surfaces to kill any germs before they can be transmitted.

Exercise often and in moderation.  

Moderate physical exercise has been scientifically linked to an improved immune system and a temporary increase in bacteria-attacking cells.  It can also help circulate immune cells around the body, which in turn attack sick cells. Dr. David Nieman, professor at Appalachian State University, notes that participants who engaged in moderate-intensity walking for 40 minutes a day had half as many sick days as people who didn’t exercise.  However, high-intensity workouts, like endurance running, have shown to reduce immunity and release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

Exercise scientists are often conflicted over how much someone should exercise while symptomatic.  Ultimately, it all depends on how severe the symptoms are: if your body aches are too severe to walk to your bathroom, going to the gym may not be the best idea.  Consult a health professional if you’re worried about how exercise can impact your symptoms.

Eat warm, aromatic foods and soups.  

Chicken noodle soup has been deemed one of the best foods to eat while you’re sick— and it’s true!  The warm broth can help clear your sinuses and keep you hydrated.  Cooking chicken also produces an amino acid, cysteine, which resembles a drug used to treat bronchitis.  Bon appetit!

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Alcohol can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill harmful bacteria, disrupt important sleep, and dehydrate your system.

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Don’t drink in excess.  

Alcohol can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill harmful bacteria, disrupt important sleep, and dehydrate your system.

Enjoy the fresh air.  

Sleeping in a room with still-air can take a toll on your system.  It can also increase your proximity to people who are already sick.  Try to go outside for at least a half an hour a day for a boost in physical and mental health.

Don’t let a cold ruin your holiday season.  Share some of your bSmart tips and tricks for stopping flu season in its tracks below!

 

Sara is a managing editor at bSmart and Environmental Law student at the University of Vermont. Outside of her studies, she enjoys spending time with her horses, doing yoga, and cooking.

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