It’s already started, folks: the incessant sneezing, coughing fits that burn your throat, and chills that make you shiver and sweat simultaneously. Flu season is in full swing, and this year’s strain is one of the worst we’ve seen in a while. If you were vaccinated before symptoms started popping up, congratulations, friend, you’re way ahead of the game. But even the shot isn’t always 100 percent effective, so you need to start actually implementing little ways to avoid the flu into your everyday routine to ward off any germs you might be exposed to. Especially now, when the virus’s hospitalization and fatality rate is so high, it’s vital that you take every precaution necessary to keep yourself healthy.
By now, flu warnings probably feel like a broken record on repeat, especially if you're far removed from the reality of just how serious it has been. Personally, I’m concerned that these blaring sirens of safety you need to hear and pay attention to are fading to white noise. Things like washing your hands with warm water and soap before every meal, covering your mouth when you sneeze, and getting enough sleep are all behaviors we’ve been encouraged to put into practice from the get-go for a reason: They work.
It sounds cliché, but neglecting to properly take care of your body can lead to illness, and judging by the severity of this year’s virus, it's not worth the risk. Here are a few easy tips and tricks from experts to help you combat the flu and stay healthy all season long.
1. Make Sure You're Getting Plenty Of Sleep
A good night's rest is exactly what the doctor orders no matter what illness you're trying to overcome, and who can complain over a prescription to press snooze? I sure won't.
Chris Brantner, certified sleep science coach at SleepZoo, tells Elite Daily this is always a good rule of thumb to follow. Granted, I totally understand that, when you're really into your work or your classes and aiming to juggle some kind of social life on top of self-care, getting a good night of sleep can be a real struggle. But remember, there are 24 hours in a day, friends, which means blocking out at least six to eight hours of sleep shouldn't be impossible. Ergo, use your waking hours wisely, and stick to a regular sleep schedule that works for you.
2. Keep Disinfectants Close By At All Times
That's right guys, I'm about to tell you to be that person. Now, you don't have to make it blatantly obvious that you're disgusted by everyone's germs like my friend Sheldon Cooper over here, but Dr. Ian Tong, chief medical officer at Doctor On Demand, tells Elite Daily he strongly suggests having hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes at the ready, just in case you don't have access to soap and water for whatever reason.
3. Practice Oral Hygiene
The ultimate goal here is to eliminate any sign of germs that could lead to illness — makes sense, right? I know myself, and when I consider all the little ways to avoid the flu, oral hygiene rarely comes to mind. But, as gross as it is to think about, our mouths are swarming with bacteria and leftover pieces of food that need to be washed out. Dr. Tong tells Elite Daily that "brushing your teeth often" will a) help clear your mouth of unwanted germs and b) leave you feeling refreshed after a long day.
Also, on top of brushing, flossing, and gargling mouthwash, I highly recommend tongue scraping as well. It sounds nasty, I know, but tongue scraping offers a ton of health benefits, including eliminating harmful bacteria from the mouth and digestive system.
4. Stay Far Away From Sick People
This is a tough one if you work in an office building or if you're a student and attend classes all day because, TBH, you have zero control over who shows up despite their sickly symptoms. In these types of situations, be mindful of the environment around you by taking note of who's been absent lately, who's coughing or sniffling, and politely take a seat far, far away.
Dr. Azmina Bhayani, family medicine physician in New York and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Elite Daily "staying away from people who are sick" is basically on the same level of importance as washing your hands frequently. This means if bae's feeling under the weather, send them an air kiss and watch your favorite Netflix shows in your respective living spaces. There's always next week to snuggle up close.
5. Use Herbal Remedies To Boost Your Immune System
Holistic remedies have been my jam lately, and while I fully support taking medication when absolutely necessary, when it comes to warding off flu-like symptoms before they have a chance to attack, I personally believe these types of holistic solutions can be super beneficial to your system.
According to Katie Pande, a senior herbal advisor with Pukka Herbs, the best holistic remedies for flu season wellness are things like ashwagandha, elderberry, ginger, and turmeric. "If you start to feel those familiar signs of a cold — runny nose, sneezing, and headaches — turn to immune stimulants like elderberry [which is derived from the elder flower, known to treat respiratory illnesses] and andrographis [an herb used to treat the common cold] to help ward it off and also reduce the length of the cold," she tells Elite Daily. Ginger and turmeric are ideal for treating a runny nose, she adds, while medicinal mushrooms like reishi help "build long-term immunity."
6. Wash Your Hands Thoroughly
Sorry, friends, but running your fingertips under the cold tap real quick after doing your thang in the bathroom does not count as washing your hands. Dr. Denise Pate, an internal medicine doctor at Medical Offices of Manhattan, tells Elite Daily you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. If, for some reason, you're either out of soap or not near a sink, she advises using an "alcohol-based hand sanitizer" instead.
7. Go To The Doctor For A Check-Up, Even If You Feel Fine
I'm generally the type of person who will avoid doctor visits unless I'm severely ill, but Dr. Pate says researching and booking health tests/screenings during cold and flu season is a great way for "patients and doctors to work together." This is kind of a win-win arrangement, because not only will you be keeping a very close eye on your health, but visits also help medical professionals test out the "latest and most advanced" services available.
8. Take Daily Supplements
Listen, I'm really not trying to push a bunch of pills on you or anything, but supplements are an excellent resource for warding off the bad stuff taking up residence in your system. Plus, who couldn't benefit from a little extra vitamin C?
Celine Thum, medical director at ParaDocs Worldwide Inc., tells Elite Daily that adding vitamin C and zinc supplements to your diet has been clinically shown to "enhance your immune system's ability to fight off disease." Can't argue with that, right? And if you're not a fan of capsules, no worries! Check your local drugstore for adult gummy alternatives.
9. Listen To Your Body
I'm willing to bet that most, if not all of us, take our health for granted. It's easy to shrug off a tickle in your throat, pop Tylenol for a headache, and blow your nose a thousand times over, but trust me when I say, these are just some of the many red flags that something in the body isn't right.
Rather than going to the gym for a modified workout, staying late at work to finish a project, or pulling an all-nighter to write your history paper, do your body a huge favor and rest. This could mean taking a nap, a bath, or even just lying down in front of the TV and zoning out. Your body needs to be in tip-top shape to fight off disease, but it can't perform if it's not well-rested.