Millions of people contract influenza each year, especially between October and May (flu season). It just so happens that illness-related work absences also rise significantly during these cold months. Coincidence? We think not. To help you battle the icky colds and germs this year, follow these nine flu prevention tips.
Get a Flu Shot
First, what is a flu shot? Flu vaccines encourage the growth of antibodies that protect the body against the year’s most common influenza viruses.
Therefore, the best way to prevent the flu is to receive an annual flu shot. Just about any healthcare facility, pharmacy, and doctor’s office can administer the flu vaccine, but you can also check the CDC website here to find the closest place near you to get a flu shot. Several types of influenza shots are recommended based on the patient’s age and health conditions, so speak with your healthcare provider for details.
Exercise as a deterrent to the flu? You bet. A regular workout schedule isn’t only good for weight loss—it’s also great for your immune system.
As you exercise, you increase your body’s circulation and flow of blood, which pushes your immune system into overdrive. White blood cells, lymph fluid, nutrients, and a variety of other infection fighters will quickly move to find and battle viruses before most symptoms even show.
About 30 minutes per day should help you brush off those gnarly coughs and sneezes, though our Olathe personal trainers recommend vigorous workouts at least twice per day for optimal flu protection.
Frankie Says Relax
However, if you aren’t used to working out vigorously (or at all), don’t overdo it during flu season. Adding stress and putting too much pressure on your body could suppress your immune system, especially if you aren’t hydrating, eating, and exercising properly. Stick to moderate 30-minute exercises if your body isn’t up for the additional workload.
If you work in an office, you know it can be a minefield during cold and flu season. Be your own mother by following some of these workplace-flu tips:
- Keep a bottle of sanitizer near your desk.
- Cough into a sleeve.
- Wash your hands as if the world depended on it.
- Don’t touch your face, like, ever.
- Steer clear of coworkers.
- Bring your own water bottles from home.
- Stay home if you’re feeling unwell.
- Tell people to take a hike if they appear sick.
Proper nutrition can go a long way in preventing colds and influenza as certain nutrients have been known to boost the body’s natural immunity to such viruses. Include a healthy dose of these in your winter diet:
- Protein – Protein may be great for repairing muscle and keeping hunger at bay, but it’s also an important component of your body’s defense and immune system. Lean proteins like chicken, eggs, beans, peas, and nuts are good sources of energy, which your body needs to stave off infections.
- Vitamin A – Sweet potatoes, kale, carrots, and other “vitamin A fortified” foods regulate the immune system and keeps your skin, intestines, and lungs healthy. If you aren’t eating enough of these foods, you can supplement with vitamin A capsules—just be aware of dose limitations or seek out the help of our meal planners near Kansas City.
- Vitamin C – Citrus fruits, peppers, tomatoes, and granola are the best source of vitamin C, which helps your body produce antibodies and battle viruses.
- Vitamin E – Protein and vitamin E usually go hand in hand (seeds and nuts are full of vitamin E), but it’s the vitamin that adds antioxidants to your blood.
- Zinc – A body with sufficient levels of zinc will have faster healing times.
- Garlic – Antiviral compounds like allion and allicin are found in garlic. Great, right? To get the maximum benefit of those antivirals, it’s recommended that you eat a lot of garlic each day. Some healthcare professionals even claim that raw garlic is the best source of these compounds. So, unless you’re a vampire, you might want to start adding loads of garlic into your meal plans.
Get Fresh Air
The more time you spend outside and away from the masses, the less likely you are to become a member of the walking dead during flu season. Keep your mittens, scarf, and winter hat in your jacket pocket, and grab a few extra walks outside than you normally would take during each workday. Just remember to wash your hands before and after touching door handles, etc.
Drinking water is crucial to every organ and function of the body. When dehydrated, you’re much more susceptible to catch the flu, as your body’s first line of defense (mucous) is probably lacking. If you have a dry nose or throat, you’re probably not hydrated enough!
Try drinking about ½ ounce of water for every pound you weigh. If you already have the flu, ramp that up to 1 full ounce. You can substitute some of those ounces for diluted fruit juice, decaf tea or coffee, and carbonated water. Stay clear of soda, dairy, and sugary drinks—yes, even sports drinks with electrolytes.
Don’t Smoke or Drink Alcohol
Smoking puts you at great risk of getting the flu and other respiratory viruses. The smoke from cigarettes destroys or impedes activity of cilia, the hairs in your nose and lungs. These hairs filter debris and germs away from the lungs and into lymph nodes, allowing your body to defend itself properly. Weaker cilia mean more viruses making their way into the lungs, which can produce those phlegmy coughs we all hate.
Alcohol isn’t as bad as cigarettes when it comes to flu prevention, but it’s certainly not good. Alcohol can lead to dehydration and a short-term depression of the immune system. If you need help sleeping after catching a cold or the flu, stick to OTC flu medication. Just don’t mix booze and cold remedies, as combining the two can damage your liver and stomach.
Rest, Rest, Rest
So, you caught the flu. Sorry. On the bright side, now’s your chance to catch up on some sleep. Call into work while you have symptoms and a temperature—if you need a doctor’s note, call your physician first for advice—and keep yourself locked away in your room. Stay hydrated. Stick to the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast). And take a lot of hot baths. You’ll be back to work in no time, for better or worse.
Although our Kansas City personal trainers at SunPoint Fitness can’t help you get over the flu, we do offer a great many services that can help you prevent it! We keep our gym equipment cleaned all year long and offer healthy meal planning ideas, supplements and vitamins, and much more. Before 2018’s flu season starts, come find out how to become a member of our Olathe gym. Call us at (913) 267-5348 or stop by our warehouse gym at 15280 S. Keeler Street in Olathe, KS.
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