Cold and flu season is upon us. This year it's especially important to stay healthy and avoid catching either. Survive cold and flu season with these home remedies and tips for keeping your immune system in tip-top shape.
Cold and Flu Season
We're about to enter cold and flu season here in the US. I've only had the flu once that I can remember, but I do usually catch a cold every year. I suffer from bad sinus problems, so colds tend to stick around in my head, and they linger way longer than I'd like them to. My last cold was last December, and thankfully it wasn't too bad. I do my best to stay healthy and keep my immune system strong, and I'll be even more diligent this year. For that reason, I've put together a list of my tricks for staying healthy during cold and flu season.
The Difference Between a Cold and the Flu
Since they're both respiratory diseases with similar symptoms, many people confuse a cold with the flu, but they are caused by different viruses, and they do have differences.
- A cold will come on gradually, where the flu has an abrupt start.
- Fevers aren't usual with a cold, but they're common with the flu.
- Aches and chills aren't very common with a cold, but they are fairly common with the flu.
- Fatigue and weakness occur occasionally with colds, but they are common with the flu.
- A stuffy nose and a sore throat with sneezing and coughing are usual symptoms of a cold, but they're not always present with the flu.
How to Survive Cold and Flu Season
Yes, I know this is an old cliché, but sometimes clichés exist for a reason. You should be drinking lots of water anyway, but especially in cold and flu season. Tea is helpful too, and I'm a big fan of Yogi Tea's cold weather teas such as Throat Coat and Breath Deep.
Yes, this another cliché. (This list is going to be full of them!) The body works on repairing and rebuilding itself while we're sleeping. If there isn't enough adequate sleep, the immune system can be compromised. Aim for about 8 hours of sleep a night and work on slowing down and managing stress too, as stress wreak havoc on the body in many ways.
Wast Your Hands
This may sound like a no-brainer, but most germs are transmitted through contact like sneezing, coughing or touching surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed on and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. Be diligent with the soap, especially during flu season.
Eat Whole Foods
Whole foods are loaded with nutrients the body needs to stay healthy while most processed foods are just empty calories that end up putting extra strain on the body as it tries to process them. Most of the immune system resides in the gut, and whole foods will help keep everything in perfect working order. Things like processed packaged foods, sugar and gluten tend to junk up the system.
Have Some Garlic
Garlic will not only keep vampires away, it also contains antibacterial properties that helps fight off germs. It works best when it's raw, so add some minced garlic to your meal after it's been cooked or add it to dressings and dips.
Ginger contains both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties and it helps reduce mucus in the body. It's also wonderful for the digestive system. Add fresh grated ginger along with some lemon to tea for a warming and immune boosting drink.
Boost Your Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and helps boost the immune system. It works best when found in whole foods, as supplementing too much C can cause digestive problems. Make sure your meals contain foods that are high in Vitamin C such as kale, collard greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lemons and oranges.
Research has shown that taking zinc can help reduce the duration of a cold as well as reduce the number of colds caught in a year. It may also stop the cold virus from lodging in the mucous membranes of the throat and nose. I recommend taking a high quality zinc supplement, not the cheap over the counter drugstore cold remedy.
Make Miso Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms
Miso has been a staple in Chinese and Japanese diets for thousands of years. It helps with detoxification and digestion and it boosts the immune system do to it's live enzymes. Shiitake mushrooms also contain immune boosting properties and have been shown to help the body fight off disease and infection. Combine the two and fight the flu with a delicious soup.
Wear a Mask
This is a new one on my list. Although wearing a mask to prevent disease is new to us here in the US, it's been common place in many Asian countries. While masks won't keep you 100% healthy, it will lesson your chances of getting sick. Go for a cloth mask with 2 or more layers and make sure it completely covers both your mouth and your nose. The CDC has guidelines for selecting and wearing masks.
If you do find yourself with the flu and your symptoms worsen, please see your doctor!
The Flu Shot
To lesson the severity of this year's flu season, experts are recommending getting a flu shot. Each year, the flu shot is formulated based on the strains of flu that were present in years past. It's impossible to say how effective it will be without knowing what kind of flu we will be faced with the future. The CDC estimates that the flu shot will reduce your risk of catching the flu between 40 and 60%.
I will admit that I have never received a flu shot. They're egg based, and in addition to being vegan, I'm also very allergic to eggs. (They cause debilitation migraines.) Fortunately for vegans, for the 2020-2021 flu season, there are two egg-free vaccines:
- Flublok Quadrivalent (licensed for use in adults 18 years and older)
- Flucelvax Quadrivalent (licensed for use in people 4 years and older)
Flublok has a location finder on their website.
Also see my tips for boosting your immune system.