People with coughs and runny noses or complaining of fatigue, aches and pains or scratchy throats. With more than a month of winter left, you’re still at risk of catching a cold or the flu before the season ends.
Are you looking for some ways to boost your immunities? Whether you’re rebounding from illness or looking for prevention, here are some tips to boost your immune system this winter and stay healthy.
Exercising regularly boosts blood flow, which circulates white blood cells through the body. White blood cells are the cells of the immune system that protect the body against disease. The immune system responds to exercise by producing more of these cells.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the rise in body temperature during and after exercise can actually help you fight infection better by preventing bacteria from growing. Due to the heavier breathing rate during exercise, you also can flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways by exercising.
Get Vaccinations Updated
Did you get your flu shot yet? The best way to prevent the flu and spreading illness is by getting vaccinated each year. There have been some reports in the news that the influenza vaccine is not as effective this year. Getting the shot still protects against many strains of the virus and also has been proven to reduce the severity and duration of the disease. If you haven’t already, talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot, and also check in with him or her to find out if you’re due for any other immunization updates.
Wash Your Hands
Handwashing is important to minimize the spread of germs. Be sure you wash your hands after being in public places, especially before eating or touching your face. Proper handwashing requires 20 seconds with soap and warm water, then dry with a paper towel. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals.
Get Your ZZZs
Sleep plays an important role in immunity. While you sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines, which are needed to fight infection. Being sleep deprived reduces the amount of cytokines produced, likewise reducing the infection-fighting antibodies you need. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep. Allowing enough hours for sleep ensures that the brain remains alert and awake during the day.
Drinking enough water is important to keep hydrated on a regular basis, especially when it’s cold and flu season. Keep your immunity up by drinking plenty of water to stave off infection. Staying hydrated helps your body naturally eliminate toxins and other bacteria that may cause illness.
Take Care of Your Toothbrush
While regular oral hygiene is a crucial factor to staying healthy, pay extra attention to your toothbrush during cold and flu season. If you share a bathroom with others, be sure your toothbrush doesn’t come into contact with other toothbrushes. Viruses can easily spread this way, so keep yours apart from the rest, preferably in an upright holder so it can dry properly. If you’ve been sick, consider replacing your toothbrush once you’re well to start fresh.
Watch What You Eat
There are many foods that can boost your immune system.
Here are some of the top foods that help with immunity:
• Citrus fruit
Some foods, however, are bad for the immune system, including soda, fried foods and alcohol because they lack the vitamins and nutrients needed to boost immunity, and are often a replacement for healthier choices.
Why are we more likely to get sick during winter months? Because when your extremities are colder, it reduces the supply of white blood cells, which help fight illness. Viruses are also more likely to survive better in colder climates. And as air temperatures drop, your mucus secretions increase. So, be sure to bundle up when you go outside during the winter months.
There are many things you can do to stay healthy in the wintertime, and boosting your immune system is the number one way to fight off sickness. A common theme among all these tips is to do what you can to boost and support your white blood cells and avoid activities that don’t allow them to do their job properly. If you have a healthy lifestyle, your body will be stronger and less susceptible to disease.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Shankar Kurra is the Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. Dr. Kurra also is board certified in Internal Medicine.