It's that time of year again...
...you're going to be bombarded with a boatload of viruses and germs. Your runny-nosed toddler will want to be held … your sick co-worker will blow his nose and then sit down to use your computer without washing his hands … and a complete stranger will have a coughing fit all over you on the bus.
It's almost inevitable … you're going to end up getting sick.
And the statistics agree. Researchers say that you can look forward to suffering with one to three respiratory illnesses this year – nearly all of them caused by viruses.
And that's in addition to the seasonal flu – and the swine flu!
So what can you do to stay healthy?
Some people dash to their doctor's office to get flu shots, but that's not always the best idea.
The seasonal flu vaccine will give you a hefty dose of aluminum and/or mercury – two dangerous neurotoxins that can inflict much damage on your brain, nervous system and immunity over time. And the swine flu vaccine adds a dangerous adjuvant– squalene – into the mix, which has been shown to trigger autoimmune diseases in lab animals.
Besides the obviously dangerous ingredients, there's another reason to give flu shots a pass - they aren't always effective in preventing the flu in the first place.
The seasonal flu vaccines work between 30 and 90% of the time. Their effectiveness depends on your age and relative health - and on the similarity between the viruses contained in the shot and the actual viruses circulating in your community.
Case in point: In the 2007-2008 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the flu vaccine was only 44% effective – because the strains covered by the vaccine weren't the same as the strains that were making people sick.
No flu shot can protect you 100% of the time. So whether you get vaccinated or not, you'll still need to take steps to stay healthy this cold and flu season.
Here are 14 tips to help you beat the odds …
1. Wash your hands OFTEN.
The viruses you pick up with your hands are often more infectious than the ones that come at you from someone's cough or sneeze. That's one reason why hand washing is recognized by the CDC as one of the most important means of keeping germs from spreading.
If you want to stay healthy, you need to wash your hands frequently – especially after shaking hands with someone or touching doorknobs, telephones, remote controls, ATMs, a friend's keyboard, shared office equipment, elevator buttons and anything in a public restroom.
But that's not all. You also need to make sure you're washing them the right way …
When washing hands with soap and water:
Step 1: Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available. (But don’t use antibacterial soap. It contains chemicals that encourage common bacteria to become more resistant – and harder than ever to destroy.)
Step 2: Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
Step 3: Continue rubbing your hands for 15 to 20 seconds. Rather than counting, you can imagine singing "Happy Birthday" twice through to a friend.
Step 4: Rinse your hands well under running water.
Step 5: Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet. (If you're at home, give each family member his or her own personal hand towel – and launder frequently.)
Step 6: Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs work quickly to significantly reduce the number of germs on your skin. Simply rub the sanitizer all over the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
2. Keep your hands away from your face.
It's easy to get infected with a cold or flu virus. All you need to do is come in contact with the virus on some surface and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose.
By washing your hands often, you lessen your chance of infection. But it's still a good idea to try to avoid touching your face as much as possible during cold and flu season.
3. Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
A good night's sleep is absolutely essential for good health. Scientists have found that the release of certain hormones during sleep may help boost your immune system. So if you're well-rested, your body can launch a strong response to annihilate an invading virus before it can make you sick.
In a study conducted at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, researchers compared the incidence of colds in 115 women, some of whom worked out five days a week for 45 minutes, others who attended once-weekly 45-minute stretching sessions. The “stretchers” had nearly four times as many colds as the “exercisers” over a one-year period.
5. Drink plenty of water.
Help your body stay hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces of water (that's eight 8-oz glasses) a day. Proper hydration is essential to a strong, healthy immune system.
6. Avoid contact with sick people.
Okay, this is not always possible. You may have a sick child or spouse to care for in your home. If so, clean bathrooms, kitchens and other areas that accumulate germs as often as you can. Give special attention to anything the sick person may have used, like phones, keyboards, door knobs, cabinet handles and remote controls.
Also, you should avoid sharing food, eating utensils, drinking glasses, pens and pencils, towels and other personal items.
And if a sick co-worker uses your computer or phone, clean whatever they touched with an alcohol swab before you use it.
7. Use a humidifier.
Keeping moisture in the air could prevent lining in your nose from drying out and cracking – which should help keep the germs from getting in.
However, use a cold water humidifier instead of a warm water one – it'll breed less bacteria. And be sure to rinse your humidifier out and refill it daily with fresh, distilled water.
8. Set the thermostat at 68 degrees – or lower.
When your home is cooler, the air can hold and retain more moisture. This will also help prevent your nose from drying out and letting in germs.
9. Take supplements.
A good multi-vitamin is a great place to start. But you might also want to consider …
Vitamin C: 1,000 mg of this powerful antioxidant every day should give you the free radical-fighting boost you need to help keep your immune system strong.
Vitamin A: This antioxidant stimulates numerous immune processes. For example, it helps strengthen the mucous membranes in your nose, so they can fend off viruses and germs in your nasal passages.
Vitamin D: You can strengthen your immune system by spending 15 minutes a day in sunlight or by taking vitamin D3 supplements.
Garlic: To boost immunity and fight inflammation, try eating one or two cloves of raw garlic a day. If you're worried about bad breath, you can find odor-free aged garlic extract at your local health food store.
Probiotics: You can get probiotics in supplement form or by snacking on yogurt. They're live microorganisms that – while not proven to prevent colds and flu – have been shown in studies to promote a healthier immune system. To benefit, you should consume between one and 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of active probiotics per day.
10. Eat your veggies.
Research has found that brightly colored vegetables and fruits boost immunity even better than most supplements. You should eat at least eight servings a day to help keep your immune system in top form.
11. Limit your sugar and "junk food" intake.
Sugar is an immune system-buster. It goes to work immediately to weaken and undermine your immunity, which makes it easier to get sick. So give your "sweet tooth" a rest during cold and flu season if you want to stay virus-free.
12. Get a monthly massage.
Finally an excuse to pamper yourself!
13. Take a cold shower.
This may sound crazy, but cold showers reputably have many benefits, like strengthening your immune system … making your mucous membranes more resilient to germs and viruses … cleansing your circulatory system … removing toxins … and helping you feel more energetic.
Here's how you can get the full benefits of a cold shower:
Choose a shower that's located in a heated room.
Rub almond oil on your body to release toxins. (This can be found in most health food stores.)
Turn on the shower. The water doesn't have to be frigid – it can be as warm as fifty degrees, which will still feel cold to your body.
Vigorously massage your body while you stand under the cold shower. You'll soon start feeling a little warmer because of the friction.
After five to ten minutes, turn off the water and dry yourself off.
Sounds like more than you can handle? Then why don't you try just a blast of cold water at the end of your normal warm shower? That will still give you some of the "cold shower" benefits.
But if you have heart problems, please do not take a cold shower without consulting your doctor first.
14. Stay positive.
“Happier people are less likely to develop colds when exposed to cold viruses,” says Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.
He's found through his research that people who described themselves as less happy, lively and calm were about three times more likely to get sick as those who rated themselves higher in those categories.
There is a scientific reason that this works. Dr. Cohen says that people with high positive emotion scores produce just enough cytokine (a protein) to help recruit other immune cells to fight off infections.
So what if you follow all of the steps above and still manage to get sick?
Here are six quick tips to help you get back on your feet fast …
Your co-workers, boss and anyone else you may have contact with will thank you.
Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
Try to cough into your sleeve like healthcare workers do – instead of your hand. Use disposable tissues when sneezing or blowing your nose – no handkerchiefs - and be sure to wash your hands often to avoid spreading germs.
Take 1,000 to 6,000 mg of vitamin C a day.
Dr. Terence W. Anderson of the University of Toronto reported a study involving 600 healthy volunteers. At the first sign of illness, one group took vitamin C. The remaining participants received a placebo, containing no vitamin C.
The vitamin C group reported fewer colds. More importantly, the colds they did get were less severe, resulting in 30% fewer sick days and less absence from work than the control group.
So vitamin C can help you get over a cold quicker and easier. But you'll experience diarrhea if you take too much, so back off on the amount a bit if that happens. You can't overdose on vitamin C, because your body will simply eliminate the excess through your bowels.
For colds, dissolve a zinc lozenge in your mouth every two waking hours.
Donald R. Davis, Ph.D. of the University of Texas reported in Antimicrobiology Agent and Chemotherapy that zinc could ease cold distress by coating the throat and stopping cold virus reproduction.
The herb ginseng has been proven to help prevent colds when taken as soon as symptoms develop.
Get plenty of rest.
Your body was designed to rest during sick periods. That way, it can divert most of its energy into healing you, so you can get well faster.
The bottom line is … you don't have to get sick one to three times a year like the statistics claim. Just follow the tips in this article, and you stand a very good chance of beating the odds and staying healthy this cold and flu season.
For more information, visit http://www.newsblarg.com/node/1330.
Deanna Blanchard is a health writer for NewsBlarg.com.