10 Ways to Prevent Getting the Cold and Flu

By K Health
Medically reviewed
November 25, 2019

It’s nearly impossible to avoid all germs, but by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and keeping stress in check you’ll keep your immune system in the best shape to ward off colds and flu when you are exposed. People with compromised immune systems, like those who are pregnant, have certain medical conditions or take immune-suppressant medications, should take special care with preventative measures.

Here are some other tips to help you avoid colds and flus:

1. Wash your hands
Viruses can live on the hands, so regular hand-washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting a cold or flu. Use soap and warm water, and rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, making sure to clean under your fingernails. If soap and water aren’t available, alcohol-containing hand sanitizers are the next best option. It’s especially important to wash your hands when you’re eating or preparing food, before inserting contact lenses, or after spending time in public spaces, like libraries, markets, on public transportation, or touching shared keyboards, doorknobs, and telephones.

2. Get enough sleep
According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, getting a minimum of eight hours of sleep each night results in greater resistance to the flu virus. During extended sleep, the body releases cytokines, a type of protein that regulates the immune system and helps fight infection.

3. Exercise
Staying active helps to circulate white blood cells, which help fight disease. Activities like taking a brisk walk three times a week, or some vigorous yoga also reduces stress and helps to circulate lymph, both important in keeping illness at bay.

4. Avoid sharing personal items
Cold and flu viruses can survive on surfaces outside the body for about 24 hours, so during cold and flu season it’s a good idea to keep toothbrushes, towels, and eating and drinking utensils to yourself. Wash children’s shared toys in hot soapy water to avoid sharing germs.

5. Have some fun
De-stressing and being social can help you get better faster! Loneliness can significantly reduce immune system functioning. Stress can also weaken your immune system and increase inflammation, which makes you more susceptible to disease. So, in the name of health, try to do activities you enjoy and that relax you with the ones you love.

6. Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
Smoking and excessive drinking suppress the immune system and even make the flu vaccine less effective.

7. Eat green vegetables
Green vegetables are a rich source of vitamins and minerals that support your immune system.

8. Take Vitamin D
No matter that season, most Americans are deficient in vitamin D, a nutrient important to the immune system. You can get Vitamin D through a supplement, and through foods like egg yolks, mushrooms, salmon, canned tuna, and beef liver.

9. Take vitamin C, zinc, probiotics, and garlic
In addition to helping you recover when you get sick, taking Vitamin C, Zinc, Probiotics and garlic during cold and flu season can help your immune system ward off colds and flus, especially if you’re stressed.

10. Have a cup of green tea
Green tea’s high level of flavonoids, immune-supporting antioxidants, might be the key to its power in helping fight infection. A few cups a day can also lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you do catch something, be sure to have K on your phone and check your symptoms whenever they pop up. K will follow up with you so you can evaluate your situation over time.

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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.