If the flu virus is a frequent visitor to your household, you may think the only thing you can do is wait for it to run its course. Perhaps you stock up on boxes of tissues, herbal teas and DVDs to help get you through the congestion, coughing and nausea the virus brings. However, if you take a proactive approach instead and adopt some prevention strategies, you need not roll out the welcome mat when flu season comes around. In addition to getting your flu shot every year, try the following measures to fend off flu viruses. They may not be the most obvious, but they can be surprisingly effective.
If you remember your mother making you gargle with salt water when you had a sore throat as a child, it turns out that she was onto something. A study of 400 subjects during cold and flu season verified that gargling with salt water thrice daily helped prevent viral infection. Compared to the non-gargling control group in the study, the garglers experienced almost 40 percent fewer bouts with the flu bug, and those that did get the virus were able to recover more quickly.
Even plain water has proven effective in staving off the flu. Researchers speculate that when you rinse out your throat by gargling and then expel the water, you may well be getting rid of the dormant virus before it has the chance to reach your stomach and proliferate.
Prevailing medical wisdom tells you to rest up while you are ill with the flu, but you can benefit from getting more sleep before illness strikes too. In a 2009 study conducted by Cohen et.al., subjects who got seven or less hours of sleep per night were nearly three times more likely to come down with a virus than those averaging eight or more hours of sleep.
Even though flu season is also a busy time for many, you can save sick time away from work by getting the sleep you need. Additionally, the quality of your sleep is a factor in staying healthy. To improve your sleep quality, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that you:
- Stick to a regular a sleep schedule.
- Get daily exercise.
- Avoid drugs, alcohol and big meals right before bedtime.
- Practice a regular sleep ritual before turning in, such as a soothing bath or a meditation session.
- Keep your bedroom slightly cooler at night, ideally in the mid-60-degree range.
Multiple research studies show that psychological stress suppresses your body’s immune system, reducing your physical ability to fend off viruses like the flu. Therefore, you can be proactive by eliminating or minimizing stress in your daily life.
In studies ranging from how the stress of finals affects medical students to how mild depression in seniors weakens their immunities, science supports the common sense idea that less stress is healthier. Some strategies for reducing stress, according to Psychology Today, include:
- Five minutes or more of meditation daily
- Spending time outdoors
- Skipping the nightly news before bed
- Allowing extra time to get where you’re going during the day
- Following an workout schedule
- Finding solutions to particular recurring stressors
Will less stress, better relaxation and more enjoyment in your daily routine, you have better odds of beating cold and flu viruses as well as more serious diseases.
The viruses that cause various strains of flu survive best in dry environments. That’s why you should keep your bedroom or office hydrated with a vaporizer before the virus takes hold. You can also make a do-it-yourself inhaler with essential oils that help dissipate congestion, keep your nasal passages open and even kill infectious germs.
All you need is a simmering pot of water, a few drops each of concentrated menthol and eucalyptus oils, and a bath towel. Take the pot off the stove and place it on a flat, secure surface. Add the oil drops and cover your head and the pot with the towel. Breathe deeply and let the steam work its magic.
Take care, however, that the relative humidity in your personal space stays between 30 and 50 percent. Anything higher will promote the growth of unhealthy mold, mildew and dust mites. If your relative humidity drops below 30 percent, your environment is more hospitable to viruses and your drier nasal passages more susceptible to infection.
It may sound counterintuitive to blow your nose before you get the flu, but in fact, giving your nose a good blow out every day is a good way to expel viruses. Colds and flu bugs have to get into your body to make you ill, and the only viable passageways for these viruses are your mouth and your nose.
After you blow, discard the tissue right away and wash your hands. Then, use a cotton swab to further clean your nostrils with warm saline solution. Be sure just to cleanse the parts you can reach easily to avoid internal damage.
Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Because you need illness-fighting nutrients to combat viruses, the onset of flu season is not the time to launch your latest diet.
Instead, load up on those foods that do the most to vanquish the flu virus. Spice your meals with such health-boosting nutrients as turmeric and garlic. Tumeric contains anti-inflammatory elements, and it adds a faint but slightly exotic flavor to a variety of dishes. The allicin in garlic helps kill unwelcome microbes and viruses that could attack your immune system.
Manuka honey can also bolster your flu defenses. Like all honey, it contains antibacterials that battle infections, but the Manuka variety is particularly rich in these helpful nutrients.
You should also eat fruits and vegetables daily. They contain phytonutrients – plant-based elements – that boost your immunities so that you can better defend yourself against the flu bug. Some of these foods that provide the biggest health benefits include:
- Dark leafy greens like kale
- Onions and leeks
Nuts, seeds and legumes provide plant-based nutrients too. If you incorporate all of the above into your daily diet year-round, you will be better prepared to stay healthy, no matter the season.
Your Source for Flu Prevention and Healthcare in Texas
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