It’s the worst possible part of winter: getting sick. The aches and pains, scratchy throat, cough, runny nose and fatigue...the list of symptoms goes on. With winter lasting several more weeks, you’re still at risk of catching a cold or the flu before the season ends.
If you haven’t already, start boosting your immunities now to avoid those missed days of work and lost productivity. 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
Arguably an effective defense mechanism against the winter’s toughest villian, the flu, getting vaccinated can help protect you this season. 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
With germs in abundance, make sure you wash your hands after being in public places, especially before eating or touching your face. But it’s not enough to run them under water and dry them off to completely kill the bacteria that causes infection. Proper handwashing requires 20 seconds with soap and warm water, then dry with a paper towel.
Get Enough Sleep
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.
Just make sure you get the proper amount of sleep. For an adult, the Mayo Clinic suggests that getting more than nine or 10 hours of sleep per night can lead to lower sleep quality and trouble falling or staying asleep.
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. Drink the recommended eight ounces per day, and four to eight ounces per every 15 minutes of activity if you’re exercising.
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, while tasting delicious! 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. Some, such as sugary treats, can even suppress the immune system, attacking the cells that fight bacteria.
Why are we more likely to get sick during the cold, 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 the old wives tale was correct, and you should heed mom’s old advice to stay bundled 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.
If you do come down with a cold or the flu, Fisher-Titus has many skilled physicians available to help you get better. Find a physician today.