Colds and flus are like stalkers in a horror movie: They went after your spouse, your co-worker, your neighbor—are you next??? You don’t have to be. Here are 15 doctor-approved tips from The Remedy for keeping winter illness away.
Rinsing your toothbrush after using it isn’t exactly the most effective method to get rid of germs. According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, health, diet and nutrition expert, they are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to winter illness. “They should be soaked in 3% hydrogen peroxide on a daily basis during cold and flu season,” she suggests.
Airplanes are one of the worst places to catch a winter illness, namely because of the stagnant air. Don’t turn your home into an airplane cabin. Dr. Dean suggests routinely changing the filters in your house, to ensure you are circulating air that is free of dust, mold or bacteria—all things that make you more vulnerable.
It may sound obvious, but if you want to avoid getting the flu, make sure to get a flu shot, reminds Monique May, MD. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of six months get it annually and now’s the time if you haven’t. Not only can it reduce your chances of dying from the flu, and the likelihood that you will end up in the hospital, but can reduce the severity of your illness if you do get sick.
Sheets and towels can be some of the germiest linens in your home, according to Dr. Dean. In the winter months you should wash these linens twice a week as a preventative measure. If someone in your home is sick, try to avoid using the same towels as them unless you want to end up under the weather as well.
According to Dr. Mintz, the best thing you can do to prevent getting sick is frequently washing your hands. “This helps prevent the viruses that you may have contracted from someone else getting into your system,” he points out. To do it properly—every time—don’t miss these essential 20 Facts That Will Change the Way You Wash Your Hands.
Carry hand sanitizer around with you at all times, suggests May. While you might think about getting your hand sanitizer out after shaking someone’s hand, you should be using it after twisting a doorknob, using the ATM, or riding public transportation.
“Winter illnesses are caused by viruses,” Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, tells The Remedy. “They are transmitted from humans through the air—via coughing—and through direct or indirect contact. And when it’s cold outside, more people are indoors, closer together.” While you can’t quarantine yourself all season, there are certain places that are germier than others—like public transportation, children’s indoor play areas, the gym, and hospital waiting rooms. Try to avoid spending time in these places as much as possible during the winter months. If they’re unavoidable, make sure to bring your hand sanitizer along and try not to come into contact with anyone who is coughing, sniffling, or showing other sickness symptoms.
Dr. Mintz points out that the concept of going outside with wet hair will make you sick is a total myth. And, the research on zinc and vitamin C in preventing illness is also incomplete. However, one of the easiest ways you can prevent getting sick is focusing on your wellness. “When your body isn’t functioning well, your immune system can be compromised, making you more susceptible to illness,” he points out. Getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and keeping stress at a minimum will keep you much healthier than blow drying your hair.
According to Dean, sugar compromises the immune system and depletes immunity-boosting magnesium. “Sugar causes magnesium deficiency because 28 molecules of magnesium are required to metabolize one molecule of sucrose—table sugar—and 56 molecules are required to metabolize one molecule of fructose,” she explains.
Dean Mitchell, MD, offers a natural method of stimulating the immune system. “Top experts I’ve spoken to believe the key to activating the immune system naturally—by alternating hot and cold water for 30 seconds when you shower,” he says. “It seems to have an impact on our nervous system which signals high alert for immune system to beat down viruses and infections.”
The common cold, influenza and other respiratory viruses are transmitted via contact with an infected person and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth, reminds Monique May, MD. Therefore, touching your face is one of the easiest ways to get sick! If you must, wash your hands first.
According to Steven Reisman, MD, the cold and flu can be the least of your winter worries. One of the most dangerous illnesses in the winter is the occurrence of a heart attack when shoveling snow. “Snow shoveling is a known cause of heart attack,” he explains. “The cold air can cause constriction of blood flow to the heart and decrease oxygen supply to the heart. This in combination with the increase in heart rate and blood pressure and thus sudden surge in work or demand on the heart can precipitate a heart attack.”
To decrease your chance of suffering a heart attack while shoveling snow, he suggests warming up first to get the blood flowing, using a small shovel, and trying to delay your snow shoveling to later in the morning. “Early morning is a ‘prime time’ for heart attacks because the blood is more likely to clot. Heart attacks also tend to be more severe in the morning,” he points out.
You can’t just take a bunch of vitamin C the second you start feeling sick and expect to miraculously feel better. The best way to avoid getting sick is building up your immunity, which you can do with the help of a daily custom vitamin, suggests Arielle Levitan, MD, co-founder Vous Vitamin LLC. She suggests trying one that contains key vitamins to support immunity—such as vitamin D3, C and B vitamins. “You can also take some extra C, D and zinc when you are coming down with something,” she adds.
Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle, suggests building up your immunity with magnesium supplements. “Magnesium works as powerful immune system booster to fight and/or prevent colds and flu,” she explains. The way it does this is by increasing the activity of the part of the immune system involved in the formation of antibodies (immune response) and acting on cells—making them more active in protecting themselves from microbial, bacterial and viral attacks. You can also get your magnesium via food. Dr. Dean suggests organic green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and chard, as well as pecans and pumpkin seeds.
The immune system has physical rooting. “When your spine is misaligned, it causes additional stress on your nervous system, which impairs your body’s ability to fight off illnesses,” explains Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales, PA. “Chiropractic adjustments can boost your immune system, which can help prevent your body from wearing down during cold and flu season.” And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don’t miss these 50 Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet.