Sure, it's cold and flu season. We're all more susceptible to coming down with a nasty virus. But do you have the feeling you get sick more than everyone else? It might be true. Here's why it seems you spend the winter months sniffling, coughing, and fighting aches and fevers.
For one, you might not be getting the kind of nutrition that you need, which comes from eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables. Studies show that getting too little vitamin A, for example, weakens the immune system and leaves you vulnerable.
Vitamin D, which helps regulate antimicrobial proteins, is key in fighting off colds. But even a diet including eggs, pork, fish, mushrooms and other vitamin D-rich foods isn't typically enough to keep your levels up in the wintertime. For people who live in the north, where there really is a winter and the sun is blocked for most of the day, vitamin D supplements are key to staying healthy.
Come on, by now you must know that washing your hands frequently, especially during cold and flu season, is the best and easiest way to stay healthy. If you're a nail-biter or face-toucher, it's even more important. Winter dryness can sometimes discourage frequent washing, but invest in a rich hand cream that works for your skin and don't look back. (Unless it's toward the sink, where you're going to wash your hands.)
Sleep is one way the body protects itself from sickness. So poor sleep—or too little sleep—keeps it from working its magic. Fight hard to get the sleep that you need each night—seven to nine hours for adults. If you don't, you might find yourself coming down with colds more frequently.
Staying hydrated during the winter months is key to staying healthy. Water helps to carry nutrients and minerals around the body. It also keeps your mouth, nose and throat moist, which is necessary to avoid illness by helping produce mucus and saliva barriers and protections.
If you're not brushing, flossing and taking care of your teeth and mouth daily, you're at risk for letting dangerous bacteria get out of control. This causes inflammation not only in your mouth but elsewhere in your body, too. All of it leaves your immune system weak when it comes to fighting against cold and flu viruses.
Some people get sick all the time due to an immune system disorder. Their bodies can't fight antigens, like bacteria, toxins and viruses. For bodies that can't produce effective antibodies, it's important to take all precautions during cold season—by washing hands, resting, drinking water and being mindful of what they eat.
A stressful day here and there won't make you more vulnerable to seasonal bugs, but chronic stress will. It keeps you from getting enough sleep. You're also likely to not eat well, and the effects of stress—with sustained and high levels of cortisol—take a toll and lower your body's ability to respond and protect.
It's possible that, while you feel sick, you're not actually fighting a cold virus. Instead, it might be seasonal allergies. You can get the symptoms of allergies, like itchy eyes and a runny nose, that mimic a cold. If you suspect your unending misery might be something other than a cold or flu, talk to your doctor about getting tested.
Kids, especially young ones, seem to be germ magnets. And they kind of are. They have a lot of social contact and few social boundaries, which means if one kid gets a cold, many of the other kids will, too. It's a losing battle to get them to wash their hands after touching any contaminated surface—they're too busy. But if you have young children, it's a good reason to get your own cold-prevention habits locked up tight.
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