If it seems like you end up with a cold or the flu (or both!) every year around this time, you are not alone. In fact, over 27 000 Canadians were reported to have contracted the flu in the 2016-2017 season, and that number is only expected to increase in the years ahead. We all know being sick is no fun, but there are lots of steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting infected and to make sure you escape this cold and flu season unscathed!
Taking preventative measures is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to protect yourself from getting a cold or the flu. These illnesses are caused by viruses, and there are several strains of virus which may cause you to become sick. These viruses are transmitted via the air, via direct contact with an infected individual and their bodily fluids, or through fomites – touching contaminated objects. To fight against these transmissions, take the following precautions:
• Wash your hands frequently with anti-bacterial soap, and do not share towels with an infected individual.
• Keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth and nose, especially when unwashed.
• Do not share items such as cutlery, drinking glasses or water bottles.
• When possible, stay away from individuals who are currently infected.
• Avoid handling soiled tissues, cloths, towels etc. that have been used by individuals who are sick.
• Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water to ensure your immune system is able to function optimally.
• Regularly clean frequently used surfaces such as door handles, countertops and table surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes
It is possible to stop a cold or flu infection in its tracks in the early stages and reduce your risk of becoming increasingly ill from the infection. At the first signs of illness, increase your intake of fluids, drinking plenty of water. Get a good night’s sleep and ensure you are getting adequate rest. The body needs more rest in order to optimize immune system function and reduce stress and you should also try to reduce your overall stress, including that from work and family or physical stress such as that from exercise. Focus on increasing your intake of immune system friendly vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C found in foods such as oranges, kiwi and grapefruit; zinc, found in pumpkin seeds and mushrooms and magnesium found in sweet potato, raw cacao and leafy greens.
After the Fact
It is important to remember that there are several strains of the cold and flu virus, and just because you have been infected once doesn’t mean you can’t be infected again. In fact, it is more likely that you will be infected a second or third time after your first exposure, as your immune system is already depleted from fighting off the virus the first time. To ensure you are not impacted a second time, be extra cautious about employing the preventative measures above. In addition, boost your immune system by consuming lots of bright, colourful fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, drink plenty of water and increase your intake of anti-bacterial foods and beverages such as garlic, fermented cabbage, apple cider vinegar, ginger and raw honey. While cold and flu season may be inevitable, you getting sick doesn’t have to be. Start putting these preventative measures into practice now, and you’ll breeze through the season, healthy and infection free!