Updated: Mar 26, 2022
Flu season peaks between December and February. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), around 42.9 million cases of flu were reported in 2018 - and that doesn't reflect the people who suffered at home and didn't see a doctor. Of the millions of people that suffered from the flu, around 647,000 ended up in the hospital. Here is how to fortify yourself against the flu and colds.
Let's start with the obvious - the flu shot. Even though reports of the flu vaccine in previous years show the vaccine as being somewhat ineffective, the CDC recommends you still get the vaccine because it lowers your risk of serious complications or dying from the flu.
SCRUB LIKE A SURGEON
The main way flu is transmitted is by personal touch, or touching something that a person with the flu has touched. That's a lot of surface area to be worried about, especially in offices, schools, and public transit. It is essential to wash your hands thoroughly after touching these types of surfaces. As in surgeon-like thorough. According to a study by Michigan State University, only 5 percent of people wash their hands for at least 15 seconds - the amount of time needed to scrub away bacteria.
DON'T WAIT TO WASH
We all remember mom reminding us to wash our hands before dinner, but don't wait until you hear the dinner bell. Unless you're home alone, it is critical to wash your hands frequently throughout the day. If you can't get to soap and water, keep a hand sanitizer nearby or in your pocket.
AIR HIGH-FIVE IT
Instead of the formal handshake, opt for the air high-five. Sure, this seems a bit extreme, but think about it for a minute. What happens in the minutes after you shake hands with someone who is infected? You go back to your desk and touch your face, rub your eyes, or bite a nail. Those tiny seconds of absent-mindedness could infect you with the flu. So, unless you can remember to wash after shaking, opt for touch-free greetings.
DON'T SPOON WITH INFECTED PEOPLE
If your partner is infected, don't sleep in the same bed with them - even if you've been sleeping together before the flu. You might still get sick, but experts say the duration of the flu might be shorter if you sleep in the guest room. Be sure to wash the bedding before you hop back in the sack together.
KILL GERMS IN YOUR HOME AND OFFICE
Stock up on alcohol-based disinfectant wipes and make wiping down surfaces your part-time job. That includes things like doorknobs, desk surfaces, phones, remote controls, and light-switches.
Merry-making and mingling go hand-in-hand this time of year, but it's ok to be stingy and not share your drink when someone wants to "just take a little sip." If you're hosting a party, offer recyclable cups and layout a few Sharpies so guests can claim their cups for the party.
DON'T REUSE THIS
Coughing and sneezing spread flu germs at lightning speed. Kleenex does help, but only if you don't reuse them. Yep, that means one cough, sneeze, or blow per tissue. It may seem wasteful, especially when only one small portion was soiled, but it is way too easy to spread germs around from inadvertently touching the wrong part of the tissue the second time you use it.
DROP THE TRANSMISSION
Some studies show that during the winter, when the humidity drops to less than 10 percent, viral transmission rises. Yet, when the humidity percentage increase between 40 to 60 percent, the transmission of viral infections drops. It might be time to buy a humidifier.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
Research by Johns Hopkins University shows that 80 percent of our immune systems are located in our gut. When enough "good bacteria" isn't hanging out there, it leaves us vulnerable to infections. Your gut would like you to fortify your body with "good bacteria" in the form of yogurt, Kefir, kombucha, and fermented foods. If none of those appeals to you, try a probiotic supplement.
EAT GREEN AND YELLOW FOODS
Zinc and vitamin C are like the first responder's when it comes to fighting infections, so while you should be eating these anyway, you might want to amp up your quota and fortify before flu and cold season hits. Kale, sweet yellow and red peppers, and broccoli are great for vitamin C. You'll find zinc in foods like beef, spinach, legumes, and mushrooms.
You knew this was coming, right? The British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that people who regularly exercised reported a 43 percent reduction in getting colds than people who didn't break a sweat. You can thank the infection-fighting white blood cells for it. They can increase and circulate more rapidly with exercise, and help fortify against.