Living a healthy lifestyle is key to fighting off chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and arthritis. It’s also important to practice a healthy lifestyle to protect yourself against acute diseases and infections such as the common cold, flu, and COVID-19.
When the winter months arrive, they tend to bring more illnesses in tow. For example, COVID-19 cases typically reach their height in January. Likewise, the flu season begins in fall and often peaks between December and February.
The 2022-2023 flu season in particular is proving to be the worst on record in over a decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 20 million illnesses, 210,000 hospitalizations, and 13,000 deaths from the flu as of December 30th, 2022.
Fortunately, there are many simple and effective ways to stay healthy during cold, flu, and COVID-19 season. Below are 11 steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from these illnesses when they are at their height.
11 ways to stay healthy during cold, flu, and COVID season
- Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep each night
Adequate sleep helps boost your immune system. A study in the journal Sleep found that participants who obtained more than 7 hours of sleep each night were less likely to develop the common cold compared to participants who slept less than 7 hours each night.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
According to the Cleveland Clinic, washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds is one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy and prevent illness. Handwashing mechanically removes bacteria and viruses from your hands that cause cold, flu, and COVID-19.
- Eat healthy foods to strengthen your immune system
Foods that are rich in vitamins, whole grains, and healthy fats can help your immune system respond more effectively to defend against viruses and bacteria. While there is no special “immunity diet,” foods commonly associated with the Mediterranean diet are a great option.
- Consider getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19
Vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent illness from the flu virus and COVID-19 according to the CDC. Many clinics and pharmacies offer both vaccines for free and/or at a significantly reduced price. You can visit https://www.vaccines.gov/ to find a flu/COVID-19 vaccine near you.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Bacteria and viruses most commonly enter your body via the eyes, nose, and mouth. A simple way to avoid contracting illness is to avoid touching your face, especially with unwashed hands.
- Exercise on a regular basis
One study found that daily physical activity can boost your immune system by improving the function of antibodies and white blood cells that fight disease. Exercise can also lead to improvements in quality of life that have lasting benefits for your health.
- Avoid contact with sick individuals
Cold, flu, and COVID-19 typically spreads from person-to-person contact. Take steps to reduce the spread of these illnesses by avoiding close contact with people who have symptoms of illness such as sore throat, cough, runny nose, and/or fever.
- Avoid excessive alcohol use
Several studies have shown that drinking too much alcohol can weaken your body’s ability to fight off illness and infection. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to increased risk of pneumonia.
- Get plenty of Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with poor bone and muscle health, as well as increased susceptibility to illness. A global study found that vitamin D supplements can help protect against respiratory infection such as COVID-19, the flu, and the common cold.
- Cut back or quit smoking
Smoking tobacco is highly associated with chronic diseases such as lung cancer. In addition, smoking can weaken your body’s immune system, decreasing your ability to fight off infections.
- Drink plenty of water
Hydrating with water helps boost your immune system in several ways. First, it helps your body absorb the nutrients it needs to build a healthy defense against bacteria and viruses. Second, water helps flush toxins from your body.
All these tips are great ways to boost your immunity and reduce your chances of developing illness. Above all, remember that healthy lifestyle choices are key to stay healthy this cold, flu, and COVID-19 season.