There is no known cure for the cold and flu, thus a conscious effort towards prevention is your next base option, and for that matter, your only option. The best approach is to keep your body healthy to keep you from being susceptible to infection caused by cold and flu viruses. Getting a flu shot is effective, though it doesn’t guarantee you will never get sick. Vaccinations can help in keeping the symptoms more mild, as well as shorten the duration of the illness in case you get sick. However, if you don’t want to get a flu shot, here are several natural remedies that can help you survive the cold and flu season.
Practice proper hygiene
Cold and flu viruses usually spread by direct contact, so washing your hands is extremely important. Germs can stay alive for hours on objects, and they can be easily picked up by another person just by touching that object. Avoid touching your face as well since cold and flu viruses enter the body thru the eyes, nose or mouth. Make it a habit to wash hands using soap and warm water. If you don’t have immediate access to water, you can use an alcohol-based sanitizer. When coughing and sneezing, always use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose. Avoid using your hands since this can only spread germs onto the objects you’ll touch.
Exercising regularly speeds up the heart to pump larger quantities of blood. This promotes the production and good function of white blood cells, which attack viruses. Overall, exercise can help in keeping your body healthy, as well as lowering your risk against diseases including cold and flu. It is not necessary to do strenuous exercises. Rather, walking around the neighborhood or taking the stairs instead of the elevator will suffice.
Eat foods containing phytonutrients
Foods that are high in phytonutrients include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and tea. The natural chemicals found in these foods help in preventing disease, and keep your body in superb working condition. There are more than 25,000 phytonutrients found in plant foods, and each one has their own potential health effects.
Vitamins and Supplements
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with fortifying your body with additional vitamins and minerals. If you can’t get these nutrients from food sources, supplements are the next best thing. Here a few that will benefit you during the cold and flu season:
● Omega-3 - Omega-3 fatty acids have immune-fortifying properties that can help in lowering your risk against the common cold and flu. According to a study by Britain’s Institute of Human Nutrition and School of Medicine, Omega-3 works by increasing the activity of cells known as phagocytes, which fight flu by eating up bacteria. It also increases the airflow and protects the lungs from numerous respiratory infections. You can also obtain omega-3 fatty acids in certain foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, salmon, sardines and halibut.
● Astragalus - This Chinese root is known to help fight infection by stimulating the white blood cells. It supports and enhances the immune system, making it a good remedy for colds and flu. Research also shows that long-term use might help in cold and flu prevention.
● Zinc - This mineral helps in slowing the proliferation of the virus in the throat and nose. Zinc interferes with the ability of rhinoviruses, which are known to be responsible for 80% of all colds. It also blocks the ability of these viruses to attach to cell membranes that causes infection.
● Vitamin C - The effectivity of vitamin C in preventing cold is still vague, but several studies show that it can reduce the duration of the cold. There is no downside to consuming a lot of vitamin C-rich foods; however, avoid megadoses of vitamin C supplementation since this can cause diarrhea and even internal bleeding in children.
● Echinacea - Evidence on the effectiveness of echinacea is still unclear, though some studies show that it can reduce the severity and duration of colds. Side effects are minimal, which can include diarrhea, wheezing and rashes.
Based on statistics, smokers are more susceptible to severe colds and other respiratory infections. Smoking keeps the number of white blood cells high, which is a sign that its fighting against damage and inflammation caused by tobacco. It temporarily paralyzes the tiny brush like hairs in the airways known as cilla, which is responsible for clearing your lungs against mucus and dirt. So if you smoke, cutting back will decrease the chances of regular colds and flus.
Drink plenty of water
Water is essential to our overall health. Sufficient supply of water in the body prevents dehydration, and it also helps in lessening congestion due to colds. Avoid coffee, caffeinated sodas and alcohol since this can worsen dehydration. Alcohol also suppresses the immune system, making you more prone to cold and flu viruses.
David Novak is an internationally syndicated columnist, covering lifestyle and health matters. His byline has appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. He’s an avid health enthusiast, and frequently is featured in regional and national health publications, discussing health, wellness, diet and fitness. He is also a weekly writer for Healthline. To visit his other stories on Healthline, visit http://www.healthline.com/.