In the winter, the risk for catching a cold or flu skyrockets. With temperatures dropping, stress levels rising and all that extra time hunkered up together indoors, it’s no surprise that we’re all a little more vulnerable.
But with the holidays, celebrations, and all the fun to be had in the snow, winter is no time to catch a cold or flu. Leave those achy, sniffly days behind and stay healthy throughout the winter with these 10 tips to avoid getting a cold or flu this winter.
- Wash your hands
We touch even more things over the course of the day than most of us even realize. From keyboards to doorknobs and more, those germs add up quickly. And that leaves you at risk.
To protect yourself from all those germs, wash your hands frequently, using soap and lathering for at least 20 seconds. Also, keep your hands away from your eyes and nose.
- Get vaccinated
Health experts say getting your flu vaccine is one of the best ways to stay healthy. The good news is, it’s increasingly easy to get your shot—and with minimal discomfort.
Not only can you get your vaccination at just about any neighborhood drug store, but there’s also new ways to receive your vaccination. In addition to the traditional shot, you can now also opt for a nasal spray or a new microinjection option, which uses a needle just 10 percent of the size of the traditional needle.
Nothing makes you want to skip the workout and stay in bed like a cold, dark morning. But as it turns out, winter may be the most important time to hit the gym. In fact, working out helps boost your body’s germ-fighting cells for as long as three hours afterward.
People who work up a sweat at least five days a week have been shown to have 43 percent fewer days with a cold during the chilly months, according to an Appalachian State University study.
But don’t go overboard—extreme exercise (like marathon runners who run over 60 miles a week, according to the study) can counteract the benefits.
- Bundle up
Winter’s cold temperatures can be one of the greatest seasonal factors increasing your risk for illness. Shivering in itself reduces your body’s natural defenses against colds and flues. The cold outside is inevitable, but you don’t have to feel it.
The best defense against low temperatures? Listen to your mom and bundle up before heading out.
- Take your vitamins
In winter, it gets harder to get the vitamin D our bodies need from natural sources like the sun. And that’s only one of many vitamins the body needs to thrive. Vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and many other nutrients all help your body fight off infections.
Taking a daily vitamin can keep your body full of the nutrients it needs and ready to take on the germs you inevitably come across in your daily life.
- Eat well
This one’s pretty basic, but that doesn’t make it any less important: Eat less junk food and more nutrient-rich fruit and veggies. Getting your greens in is especially important this time of year.
Strengthen your body’s natural defenses against colds and flus by adding green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli or Brussels sprouts to at least two meals each day.
- Sanitize your space
While washing your hands is critical, it’s not something you can do constantly. But flu germs can stay alive on surfaces for over two hours, according to Dr. Oz. Sanitizing surfaces can help bridge the gap.
Especially pay attention to frequently touched and shared surfaces like door knobs, remote controls, keyboards, and refrigerator handles.
- Get out and have fun
Curling up under a blanket at home may feel good, but it’s not the best thing for you. A study from Carnegie Mellon University actually showed that people who are more socially active are better at fending off colds. So braving the cold to spend time with friends is a healthier choice.
Another important way to keep your immune system strong is to make sure you get enough sleep each night. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body’s germ-fighting T-cell count goes down. So do yourself a favor and get your beauty rest.
- Drink water
Water plays an important role in flushing toxins from the body, so don’t skimp on it during the wintry months. When you’re dehydrated, it’s harder for your body to flush out and fight germs.
And if you’ve already caught a cold or flu, keep on sipping—drinking lots of water can help get past an illness faster, too.
Stay healthy all winter
Winter can demand a lot of your immune system. Between the parties, the stress and the frigid temperatures, there’s a lot of ways your body can work against you during the flu and cold season.
But the good news is, there is a lot you can do to keep yourself out of the doctor’s office. These 10 tips will keep your immune system strong all winter so you can reduce your risk of colds and flus, and enjoy the perks of the season.