The last thing you need during the holidays is a raging cold or worse -- the flu. But with the CDC warning the flu season often begins in earnest in late November, it looks like Mother Nature isn't listening to our requests for a happy, healthy holiday.
So let's head her off at the pass, shall we? You can keep yourself cold and flu free with some natural prevention tips that double as a holiday survival guide:
1. Wash Your Hands. The old-fashioned "soap and water" trick is touted by everyone from the CDC to your Granny, and there's a reason. Scientists have found the influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and infect a person for two to eight hours after being "deposited on the surface." Washing your hands will kill the germs before they make their way into your mouth or nose. It will also help your hands recover from Uncle Buster's overzealous handshakes.
2. Exercise. Moderate exercise boosts the body's immune system, helping fend of viruses and bacteria and keeping off the extra holiday pounds in one fell swoop. But don't overdo it -- marathoners and other hardcore workout buffs are actually at a higher risk of disease during the winter months.
3. Wash Your Face. Germs love to sneak in through the mouth and nose, so washing your face -- and trying not to touch it with dirty hands -- is an important disease fighter. It will also keep your Mom from telling you that you look old and tired. Well, maybe.
4. Avoid Close Contact With Sick People. Yes, it's the holiday season, and everyone wants to hug and kiss and make nice with people they don't see all year. But if someone is sniffling, you're better off steering clear so you don't end up losing a week of work.
5. Disinfect Everything. There's no point in steering clear of your sick cousins only to use the phone they just sneezed on to call your aunt across the country. Carry anti-bacterial wipes everywhere to be safe.
6. Take Vitamin D. Studies have found intake of vitamin D has been linked to reduced reports of cold and flu symptoms. It has the added benefit of fighting osteoporosis.
7. Eat Yogurt or Take Probiotics. It sounds strange to eat bacteria to fight germs, but probiotics have been linked to an enhanced immune response when fighting the flu.
8. Quit Smoking. This is a good idea any time of the year, frankly, but who doesn't want an excuse to escape the relatives when they're at fever pitch? Unfortunately, smokers sneaking outside for a cigarette in the cold of winter face even more health issues as both the nasty chemicals and the cold attack the body together. Your immune system will be challenged, and you'll be ripe for infection.
9. Get Some Sleep. There's no better excuse to snooze on a Saturday morning than this: lack of sleep can lessen the immune system's ability to fight off the cold and flu. Tell the kids the tree can wait! Snooze on!
10. Chill Out! It may be easier said than done, especially during the holidays, but stress weakens the immune system. Which could be another reason to go take a nap (and skip the really boring holiday parties).
How do you stay healthy during cold and flu season?
Image via mcfarlandmo/Flickr