It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Fresh snowfalls look beautiful, there is a holiday buzz all around you. But with all of the joy comes the not so joyous Flu. It makes its rounds quickly, making preventing the flu one of our many considerations during these busy days.
Who Is At Risk Of Catching The Flu?
Everyone can potentially catch the flu, whether you have had it recently, got the flu shot or not (although, of course, less likely if you did), and regardless of your age and health status. The Flu virus has many different strains, it’s very contageous and it moves fast.
Most of us will spend a few miserable days in bed and bounce back, however some people are particularly at risk for serious complications related to the flu.
This includes anyone over the age of 65, infants and small children, pregnant women, and anyone who is immune compromised due to illness, medication or immune related health issues.
As with anything, there are things that you can do to minimize your risk and protect yourself and your family.
6 Ways To Try To Prevent The Flu
This one probably seems obvious – but washing your hands very frequently is key to preventing the flu taking over your house. If you have small children then this is easier said than done, a good strategy is to implement a policy of all washing your hands as soon as you get home. It is also a good idea to regularly sanitize high traffic areas around your home such as door knobs, light switches, TV remotes etc.
Even though we are all extremely busy, make sure you are getting enough sleep! When we sleep our body goes through natural healing and detox processes. If we deprive ourselves of that healing time during cold and flu season, we might be setting ourselves up for disaster!
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
“You are what you eat” is a phrase that almost feels outdated. But guess what? It is true! Make sure that you are eating a healthy diet with plenty of foods such as leafy greens, healthy fats, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Try to avoid prepared foods with ingredients that you can’t pronounce, and of course, do your best to minimise white sugar. If you need to use sweeteners, use a natural version such as stevia, monk fruit sweetener or the lower-glycemic coconut sugar.
There are also some foods in particular that are known for their immune-boosting properties. Garlic is good for this for example, and so is ginger.
4. Take Your Supplements!
Now is the time to use some of those supplements that are cluttering up your cupboard before they go out of date! A good base for flu season starts with boosting your vitamin D, and vitamin C intake. If you’re not already taking a probiotic, start now. All of these things can help your body to fight off the flu, of course nothing is 100% but a good base of immune support can give you a fighting chance!
5. Stay Hydrated
One of the things people find the hardest to do when busy is remembering to drink enough water. The rule of thumb is that if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
What you should aim for is at least 8 – 10 glasses of water per day. This is so beneficial to every aspect of your well-being. Water helps those vitamins to move around between cells, helps your cells clean themselves out at night, and your lymphatic and urinary systems to flush the bad stuff out so that you feel refreshed and healthy. Being properly hydrated helps your immune system, digesion, circulation, skin, nails, hair, muscles… the list goes on!
If you are someone who just doesn’t like water; try adding in a squirt of lemon. Not only does it add a more palatable taste but it has immune-boosting and cleansing properties also.
6. Reduce Stress
Stress reduction is top of the list of healthy lifestyle habits during the holiday season. Find small ways to calm things (and yourself / kids) down throughout the day. When we are feeling stressed out our body feels it too. This is not just a psychological issue, it’s physiological as the stress hormone cortisol changes the body’s reactions to antigens making us more susceptible to infections. Stress also negatively affects how the body handles food and sleep, and to rub salt in the wound, even fat storage.
Take a bubble bath, break up the day with a neighbourhood walk even if you don’t have a dog, take up meditation, read a good book, start a craft project… the list is endless – whatever feels calming, make a little time for it daily over the holidays and into January.
What if you catch the flu anyway?
Despite your best efforts, the flu might still infiltrate your home – especially if you have school-age kids! Keep in mind, prescriptions do not destroy the flu as it is a viral infection. But there are things you can do in hopes of making your illness as short and painless as possible.
Natural Ways To Help Deal With The Flu
You likely will not be overly hungry during this time so sticking to soups and/or bone broth is a good plan. Drink plenty of water, and add some apple, blueberry or pomegranate juice to help with your electrolytes.
Herbal teas such as Ginger, Peppermint, Rooibos and Chamomile can be soothing as well as hydrating to help you feel better.
This is one of the most important things to do – get plenty of rest. As tempting as it is to still do your holiday shopping it might be best to send a family member or friend off to the shops for you with a list. Try not to infect everyone around you.
Going to work, on the other hand, is a bit of a tricky subject – if you are able to stay home; you should. The last thing you and your co-workers want is for the flu to sweep through the whole office!
Use a Neti Pot; this can really help with congestion! They can be really messy and sometimes uncomfortable to use, but they really help to clear out your sinuses which relieves pain and pressure. The air in our homes this time of year is also very dry so making sure that you have a humidifier going is helpful – especially at night.
If congestion becomes unbearable (you can still breathe, but only through your mouth), close the bathroom door and run the shower as hot as possible to create a makeshift steam room. A few drops of Eucalyptus oil in the bathtub can work wonders as well.
Natural Remedies For Flu
Studies have found that Elderberry syrups and extracts, readily available in health food stores and integrative pharmacies, help to reduce the duration of the flu. They don’t work as well for prevention as the body gets used to them, so rather than taking Elderberry all winter, keep a bottle in the fridge for a targeted remedy to take at the first sign of flu symptoms.
If you have a sore throat, take a spoonful of raw, unpasteurised honey. Honey has antiviral properties, and at the very least it can help to coat your throat to reduce coughing.
Making a drink of hot water with a squirt of lemon and sweetened with honey is great for a sore throat too because not only does it coat your throat but you can take advantage of the other health benefits it offers. Just try not to go overboard with the honey – it does contain a lot of sugar.
Taking Zinc orally can also help reduce the duration of the flu, but you need to take it within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms for best results – another remedy to keep on hand.
When It’s Over, Sanitize Everything… again
Once your flu symptoms ease up and you are feeling more like yourself, it is generally a good practice to sanitize everything that you can, to avoid passing the germs back through the house. Make sure you change your bedsheets and your toothbrush!
When To Seek Medical Help For The Flu
Secondary infections such as pneumonia can be even worse and more dangerous than the flu itself, so it is important to keep tabs on your symptoms. If your fever climbs to 39.5° C or higher, you have trouble breathing with only slight exertion, feel chest pain or pressure, sudden dizziness, confusion, or severe vomiting – these are all symptoms which warrant a trip to the Emergency department of your closest hospital.
In Ontario, Telehealth is a medical advice telephone service available 24/7, call them on 1 866-797-0000 to talk to a Registered Nurse if you have any concerns about your symptoms.
When all is said and done, preventing the flu is sometimes inevitable. All we can do is our best to avoid it; but if it comes knocking at your door anyways, now you have some tools to make it as painless as possible so that you and your family can enjoy this winter and holiday season!
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