Food as Medicine, Immunizations, Lifestyle Medicine

How to Arm Yourself Against Colds and Flu This Winter Season

As a doctor, the most common question I get this time of year is, “How can I stay healthy?” Protect yourself against the army of germs that winter brings by teaming up with sanitizers, vaccines, healthy lifestyle choices and zinc. These are four simple ways to beat back colds and flu.

Focus on your hands. Cold viruses can stay alive on surfaces for several hours and your hands are wonderful at shuttling germs to your mouth and nose where they can enter, replicate and wreak havoc. Wash your hands well with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Alcohol is virucidal, meaning it can deactivate and destroy viruses. Keep a small container with you. Soap and water works, but is less effective when people don’t rub vigorously enough or scrub for long enough.

Get your shots. The flu shot is safe, free and typically reduces your risk of influenza by 40 to 50 per cent. If you have lung disease or chronic illness, or are over the age of 65, you can also talk to your doctor about getting a pneumonia vaccine for more protection. Pneumonia can be a complication of colds and flu.

Live well. People who engage in regular, moderate physical activity are bothered by cold symptoms less often. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can also help ward off illness. Citrus fruits and other yellow, orange, red and dark green veggies and fruits contain phytonutrients and antioxidants that help boost your immune function. And get enough sleep — people who catch their winks are less susceptible to getting sick. Believe it or not, meditation has a similar effect.

Try zinc. This mighty mineral helps reduce the duration of common cold symptoms, so at the first sign of illness or following exposure, pull out your zinc lozenges. Chew or suck a 10 milligram lozenge every few hours (to a maximum of 10 daily). As with any supplement, talk to your doc or pharmacist before taking and check your bottle for specific dosing instructions.

Arm yourself and stay healthy this cold and flu season.

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