Winter is here and we're all waiting for that big cold to hit. Or even worse, the flu. Cold and flu season unsually runs until sometime in April.
While there is no cure for the common cold and the flu, you can take certain steps to help reduce your chances of getting sick in the first place. These steps point to the truth of the adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
It's late, but you might still want to get a flu shot. But remember, flu shots only target certain influenza strains - the shots are not a guarantee you won't get a bug.
You can also follow a number of natural strategies:
First, make sure you're eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and make sure your diet contains plenty of foods with immune-boosting nutrients, including:
Ginger -- Ginger is full of virus-fighting substances, including gingerol, which can suppress coughing. Try making ginger tea - hot water steeped with fresh ginger.
Vitamin C -- Found in citrus fruits and juices.
Zinc -- Found in meat, chicken, peanuts and peanut butter.
Lactobacillus -- This bacteria is present in yogurt and aids the digestive system. These friendly organisms are known as probiotics. There's growing evidence that, in addition to helping with digestion, probiotics stimulate production of immune system substances.
Wash Your Hands
Good hand-washing is the first line of defense against not only colds and the flu, but also more serious illnesses like meningitis, hepatitis A and many types of infectious diarrhea. If no sink is available, rub your hands together very hard for a minute or so. That also helps break up most of the cold germs. Or rub an alcohol-based hand sanitizer onto your hands.
Drink Lots of Water
We tend to drink more water in the summer when we are active, but the winter months require extra hydration. Water flushes your system, washing out poisons as it hydrates you. In general, you need eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids a day.
Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart and gets your blood pumping and your lungs working, which help increase your body's natural immunity. Try to maintain an exercise routine at least three to four days a week.
Avoid Smoking and Alcohol
Another reason to kick the habit: Statistics show heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones. Even being around smoke can zap your immune system. Alcohol can lower your resistance to infection in general, and dehydrates the body.
There's plenty you can do to protect your family. Be well!