5 tricks to fend off the fluBy now, you've no doubt heard all about how this year's flu epidemic is reaching, well, epidemic proportions. And besides being widespread, sounds like it ain't a pretty strain (or strains) of flu this time around, either. Maybe you've already experienced the flu, maybe you were first in line for the flu shot, maybe you're contemplating getting a flu shot but your doctor is wiped out of stock ... whatever your current flu status, you're probably wondering what else you can do to prevent the flu (or any of the other nasty bugs lurking out there).

Thankfully, there are some measures you can take to protect yourself and your family, and they really do work -- although some of these tips might take you by surprise.

1. Practice "respiratory etiquette"

It's the new catchphrase used by hospitals and other professional healthcare facilities, and it's pretty much an updated version of the old common sense rules: Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soap and water, especially before eating, etc., plus interesting new info about disinfecting surfaces (cold and flu germs can live for HOURS outside the body) and be sure not to share ANYTHING, even towels, with someone who's sick.

2. Gargle with Warm Salt Water

I swear my grandmother is looking down from Heaven and laughing at me right now, because this was her go-to advice whenever I got sick as a kid (and I HATED it). But people who gargle with water a few times a day are one-third less likely to catch colds; salt and warm water once you're already sick helps clear the virus out of your throat.

3. Drink hot tea with honey and lemon.

Again, old common sense wisdom backed up by modern science -- hot drinks "stimulate digestion, ease cold and flu symptoms, and give your immune system an extra kick," honey (particularly darker varieties) has such strong antimicrobial properties it's been shown to reduce risk of flu infection, and lemon adds Vitamin C and antioxidants.

4. Use a nasal spray or neti pot.

These work the same way gargling does, except personally I don't mind these as much (I seem to be in the minority with this preference, however!).

5. Try brewer's yeast.

This time, it's my mother who's laughing at me. Apparently sprinkling a teaspoon of brewer's yeast on your food every day can really boost the heck out of your immune system, which is why, I suppose, my mother did exactly that to her food when I was a kid (personally, I hated the smell and wouldn't touch the stuff). Sigh. You were right, Mom.

Do you have any surprising ways to keep protect your family from the flu?

 

Image via boo lee/Flickr