10 Tips To Avoid The Flu and Keep You From Getting Sick This Winter

tips to avoid the flu

There's currently a flu epidemic in the United States. Aside from that, many people suffer from bad colds, viruses, and other ailments. How do you keep yourself and your family healthy in a world where so many people are sick? While there's no surefire way to avoid illness, the following are 10 practical tips to help you avoid the flu and other bugs that might be going around.

1. Practice Good Hygiene in Public Places

Public spaces are especially risky when it comes to picking up germs. At the top of the list are places where people spend long hours together, such as workplaces and schools. Public restrooms, restaurants, and all types of public transportation are also risky. The best practice is to frequently wash your hands with soap and water after spending time in public spaces. If you want to be extra careful, use a tissue or napkin to touch doorknobs, faucets, toilets, handrails, and other surfaces. 

2. Stay Home

While your home doesn't keep you 100% safe from illness, it's a lot less risky than almost anywhere else. If you're feeling under the weather, don't force yourself to trudge to work. This is particularly important during times of rampant illness. You'll end up losing more time from work if you get seriously ill. The same holds true for your kids. If lots of people at work or your kids' school are currently sick, it might even be a good idea to take a few days off even if you're feeling okay. 

3. Maintain a Healthy Immune System

Making your immune system strong is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, it helps to eat nutritious whole foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, what you stay away from is equally important. Avoid overeating or overindulging in sweets, junk food, and alcohol. Get sufficient rest. Germs and viruses are opportunistic entities. They look for the most receptive hosts. Do everything you can to make them look for easier targets. 

4. Keep Your Distance From Sick People

You can't always avoid people who are ill, especially if they're in the same house as you or you work with them. However, you can take certain sensible precautions such as not standing too near someone who has obvious cold or flu symptoms. One trick to keep in mind is to exhale while someone is coughing or sneezing. 

5. Postpone or Cancel Activities

If the flu or other infectious diseases are common in your area, it's worthwhile to consider adjusting your behavior in certain ways. Some places, such as work or school, you can't avoid for extended periods. However, you can always stay home and watch Netflix instead of going to the movies. You can study in your room instead of the college library. You can cook rather than eat at a restaurant. You might even postpone a vacation, which involves many germ-infested places such as airports, planes, hotels, and crowded tourist attractions. It may seem extreme to take such measures but staying away from public places is one of the best ways to lower your risk of illness.

6. Practice Nasal Irrigation

Neti pots are a traditional remedy for keeping the nasal passages clear. It's a safe and natural process, if not exactly pleasurable. You simply pour a mixture of water and salt into your nostrils to clear out the nose and sinuses. There are now more advanced nasal irrigation systems sold at pharmacies that use syringes or bulbs but the concept is the same. Cleaning out the nasal passages can help to clear up congestion. Many people also use it as a preventive measure to avoid illnesses. 

7. Take Natural Remedies

There are some natural remedies that may help prevent the flu and help you manage symptoms if you do get it. Chief among these are turmeric curcumin,  echinacea, Vitamin C, Zinc tablets, apple cider vinegar, ginger (either as a supplement, tea, or fresh ginger added to food), and garlic. Another good source of protection is probiotics, which you can take in supplement form or in foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut, and kombucha. Keep in mind that these supplements can be helpful but they don't replace the need to take other precautions or seek medical help if you are ill. 

8. Stay Active

If you're sick, you need to take it easy. However, when you're healthy, exercise helps you stay that way. This can be especially challenging in winter when colds and flu are more prevalent. Keep in mind that fitness centers are useful for staying fit but they're also public places where you should be careful. Wash your hands frequently and always wipe down equipment before and after using it. Better yet, exercise outdoors if the weather permits.

9. Reduce Stress

Stress can be a factor with all kinds of illnesses, including the flu. If you're trying to stay healthy, find ways to manage stress. Don't take on more tasks and commitments than you can reasonably handle. Take frequent short breaks when working or studying. If something is bothering you, find someone to talk it over with, either a friend, family member or a professional. Moderate exercise, also good for strengthening the immune system, also helps reduce stress. 

10. When in Doubt Get a Professional Opinion

While you don't have to visit the doctor every time you sneeze or sniffle, it's sometimes beneficial to get an informed medical opinion. For example, if you're not sure if you, your kids or your elderly parents should get a flu shot, ask your doctor. It's important to realize that all doctors aren't equally informed. If your current doctor can't answer your questions to your satisfaction, find someone who keeps up with the latest research and who can provide you with helpful advice about current risks and precautions. 

These tips can all help you reduce the chances of getting the flu and other contagious illnesses. Some can also help manage symptoms if you're already sick. While modern medicine still hasn't found an infallible way to avoid getting sick, it makes sense to do everything in your power to stack the odds in your favor.