Cold and Flu Season: 5 Healthy Habits to Practice Now
Covid-19 is an incredibly contagious and dangerous virus. However, implementing these 5 healthy habits can help you stay safe.
Cold and Flu Season: 5 Healthy Habits to Practice Now
The Importance of Vaccinations
There is a common myth that the flu vaccine causes the flu. This is incorrect. The flu vaccine contains an inactivated form of the virus, and thus cannot cause the flu. Studies consistently show that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting the flu, the severity of the infection, and the risk of hospitalization and death. Reducing the number of potential flu cases and their severity is crucial to help alleviate the burden on our healthcare systems as they continue to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend annual influenza vaccinations for all persons aged 6 months or older. The flu vaccine is especially important for individuals who are at high risk for developing severe flu complications, including but not limited to adults 65 years or older, children younger than 2, people with suppressed immune systems, pregnant women, and anyone with chronic lung, heart, kidney or liver disease. Those who are able to get a flu vaccine will also be doing their part to protect vulnerable populations who are unable to receive the vaccination.
Since it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop and provide protection against the influenza virus, it is recommended that you receive your vaccination in September or October, before the flu season begins. However, receiving the vaccination later is still more protective than not receiving the vaccination at all.
Covid-19 Vaccines Are Still Important
It is important to note that there is currently no evidence to suggest that the influenza vaccine will protect you from a Covid-19. Covid-19 vaccinations (and booster shots for those who are currently eligible) still remains a critical tool to protect you from getting Covid-19, becoming seriously ill or dying due to Covid-19 and spreading the virus that causes Covid-19.
Furthermore, according to the CDC, it is safe to get a flu vaccine at the same time you get a Covid-19 vaccine, including a Covid-19 booster shot.
5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Our immune system is our best defense mechanism against germs, viruses and chronic illnesses. Maintaining a healthy immune system is now more important than ever to help our bodies fight off colds, the flu and other infections such as Covid-19. The best way to naturally strengthen your immune system is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Here are some steps you can take:
1. Minimize Stress
Research consistently shows that chronic stress can negatively impact our immune system, thereby increasing our risk of infectious illnesses. Dealing with a pandemic is stressful enough, without the mounting fear of the upcoming cold/flu season.
Coping strategies such as mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, short walks outside, or tapping into your social network for support can help to minimize stress levels.
2. Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep plays a critical role in regulating our immune response. Not getting enough sleep can increase our body’s inflammatory response and even make us more susceptible to illnesses such as the common cold.
Fortunately, there are many nonpharmacological approaches you can take to help you sleep better at night such as structuring your days by going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. Additionally, you can also boost your immune system by creating a sleep-conducive home environment through daytime light exposure, blocking out light at night and separating your work space from the bedroom.
3. Eat Well
Maintaining a balanced diet is important for overall health and immune function. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies have been associated with poorer immune response, thereby increasing your risk of infections and chronic diseases. A good quality diet that consists of a wide variety of fresh and unprocessed foods can help ensure that you get the nutrients your body needs, thus helping to prevent deficiencies. Avoid foods high in sugar, fat, and salt.
Need help planning what to eat? The Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health has created the Healthy Eating Plate to help you create healthy, balanced meals. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released nutrition advice for adults during the Covid-19 outbreak, which provides detailed recommendations for a healthier diet.
4. Stay Hydrated
Adequate hydration is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system. Water is an essential building block of life which helps to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Drinking water is the recommended beverage to fulfill your daily water requirements as it is both calorie-free and cost effective.
To ensure you’re well hydrated, try to drink small amounts frequently throughout the day. And while the majority of your daily fluid intake likely typically comes from drinks, consuming foods high in water content (such as celery, tomatoes, or melons) can also help keep you adequately hydrated.
5. Be Active
Regular exercise helps to stimulate changes in different immune cell types that, together, have an anti-inflammatory effect and support immune defense activity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150–300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity per week for substantial health benefits.
Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine by going for a socially distanced jog or walk outside, or taking an online fitness class from the comfort of your home.
Don’t Forget To Practice Good Hygiene
Did you know that many of the same practices we are currently employing to protect ourselves against infection and transmission of Covid-19 also help to protect us against other respiratory infections such as the cold and flu? As we enter the fall and winter season, the CDC urges everyone to continue to:
Practice Social Distancing
Stay at least 6 feet apart from individuals who are not from your household – this is especially important when you are in public spaces. Avoid close contact with those who are sick. If someone in your household is sick, try to maintain a 6-foot distance (or as much distance as is possible) from them.
Wash Your Hands
Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand washing is especially important after you have been in public spaces and/or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water is not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
Cover Your Sneezes and Coughs
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough and throw the used tissue into the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze/cough into the inside of your elbow. Do not sneeze into your bare hands.
Wear Face Coverings
Face coverings are a key tool in reducing the transmission of Covid-19 and can also help reduce the transmission of other respiratory viruses such as influenza. While mask mandates have been lifted in many states, the CDC continues to recommend those who are over the age of two and not fully vaccinated to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
Every year, we all do our best to avoid getting sick during the cold and flu season. Unfortunately, the risk of the regular cold and flu season is now exacerbated by Covid-19. In this article, we explore some important strategies to boost your immunity and help you stay healthy.
Even if you are fully vaccinated, wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings, indoor public spaces and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated remains best practice, particularly in areas where covid-19 transmission rates are high and can help to maximize your protection against the delta variant.
It’s Never Too Late (or Too Early) To Practice Healthy Habits
The benefits of safe hygiene practices and maintaining a healthy lifestyle extend far beyond cold and flu season. Start implementing these healthy habits today. The sooner you start and the more you do it, the more likely it will stick and become part of your daily routine.
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