Flu season can be a stressful time. Not only is contracting the flu considerably unpleasant, but it can be detrimental to the livelihoods of many. Influenza lasts 7-10 days, much longer than the standard three days of sick days most companies allow. Families can pass it back-and-forth, reinfecting each other. And there is a concerning 2% mortality rate. Not everyone wants to pop pills and vaccinate. That’s why we’re sharing our top tips on how to prevent flu naturally.
One: Avoid Crowds To Reduce Exposure – Social Distancing
One of the reasons influenza can be so dangerous is because of its infection rate and the ease of infection. When someone nearby breathes, coughs, or sneezes, their infected water droplets can travel to your vicinity where you breathe them in, becoming infected.
During flu season, it can be useful to avoid large crowds where infected people may be walking or standing close to you. You might do your grocery shopping during off-hours, such as on Wednesdays. Skip standing in line at Starbucks during the morning rush hour. And bring your lunch to work instead of dining in busy cafeterias and restaurants during peak flu season.
Many ask about wearing masks during flu season. The truth is that most standard medical masks will reduce but not prevent exposure. It’s more important to use disposable masks on those who are sick or have been exposed to keep them from infecting others (including at home) when they cough or sneeze.
Two: Clean And Disinfect Hands And Surfaces
We all know to clean our hands after using the restroom, but many people don’t realize just how often they touch surfaces and their faces throughout the day. Make it a habit to wipe down everything you use throughout the day, especially including the steering wheel, countertops, doorknobs, faucets, phones, keyboards, and other heavily used surfaces. If you eat out, go ahead and wipe down the table and silverware with an alcohol wipe. Restaurants simply wipe down tables with wet rags, which move bacteria and viruses around, rather than cleaning the table.
Powerful disinfectants, such as bleach and solutions that are at least 60% isopropyl alcohol, are recommended to disinfect surfaces. If you want to use natural disinfectants, consider using vinegar, which is 5% acetic acid, and is known to kill viruses and bacteria, including flu. Natural cleaners, such as Simple Green, can also be effective. Always carry a pocket-sized disinfectant and tissues so you can wipe surfaces and wash hands as needed (don’t forget grocery store shopping carts).
Health Tip: Remember not to touch your face, even for a quick itch, unless you’ve just washed your hands. If you have to touch your face but aren’t able to wash your hands, use a tissue. Then throw that tissue away.
Three: Mouth Care
The mouth is the first step in the digestive process. It contains enzymes and bacteria that not only assist with breaking down food but that influence your overall health. Poor oral health has been linked to heart disease, cholesterol problems, bacterial infections, and more.
Most people brush once per day, but the truth is, everyone should be brushing at least twice per day, flossing after every meal, and doing some kind of rinse after brushing and flossing. As a reminder, think of your mouth as having four quadrants. Each area should be brushed thoroughly for at least 30-seconds, meaning each time you brush your teeth, it should take a full two minutes. Remember to use cool water because harmful bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments.
Some like to gargle with Listerine or similar products, but those are alcohol-based and can wipe out good bacteria that fight germs, as well as throw off your pH. Instead, to make a saline solution, add about half a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water and then gargle.
Remember, your mouth is one of your first lines of defense against illness and disease. Keeping your immune system and overall health intact means keeping your mouth healthy and clean.
Four: Clear Your Sinuses To Help Prevent Flu
Since flu is contracted by breathing air with water particles from infected people around you, it makes sense that clean, healthy sinuses can help you prevent infection. We have small hairs that help to keep foreign bodies out as well as a mucous membrane that acts as one of our first lines of defense. Plus, one of the first symptoms you might experience when getting a cold or flu is sinus congestion. Staying ahead of congestion can help you feel better and remain stronger for longer.
The best, most thorough option is to use a neti pot with a sterile saline solution of warm water and salt. A recommended solution recipe is one teaspoon of salt with a pint of water and half a teaspoon of baking soda, if desired, to soften the mixture. Taking a hot steamy shower can help clear sinuses. You can boil water and place your head over the bowl with a towel over your head for a makeshift steam room if you don’t have access to a steam room.
Ideally, you’ll keep a humidifier running throughout the night next to your bed and try to work with a desktop humidifier. Dry sinuses do not drain well and have a hard time maintaining your health by fighting pathogens that enter the nasal area. A steam vaporizer can also be immensely helpful in reducing the discomfort from dry nose and sinuses while promoting sinus health.
Health tip: Many people invest in expensive air purifiers. While this helps reduce dust, allergens, and other particles that can irritate nasal passageways and respiratory systems, most purifiers do not have filters that will kill viruses. Choose to use HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters that will absorb particles that are 0.03 microns or larger to ensure clean, fresh air.
Five: Use Aromatherapy To Help Prevent Flu
Many people think aromatherapy is strictly a mood enhancer, but if you use the right oils, you will also promote better health. Why not engage all your senses to prevent illness? Aside from being uplifting, the right scent can have a medicinal effect. Just remember that it’s best to use essential oils, which are essentially plant extracts, whenever possible. This way, you’ll reap the benefits of the oil and all the ways it interacts with your cells, The alternative is to use manufactured scents, which will smell good but lack the natural qualities of essential, plant-based oils. Synthetic fragrances can also sometimes cause inflammation and are more likely to stimulate allergic reactions.
By itself, aromatherapy isn’t a remedy for ailments, but many oils do show promise in several studies. The right oils have antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal effects and can help to promote a more balanced system. This can free your immune system just a little bit more to fight viruses like influenza. Add just a few drops to a glass of water, your humidifier, your vaporizer, or a hot bath to absorb the effects.
Common essential oils that have a documented history of influencing health include:
- Lavender oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Tea tree oil
- Peppermint oil
- Lemon oil
Six: Reduce Stress
Stress is one of those factors that can be hard to identify, but it affects and influences every system of the body. When we are stressed, we get less sleep, our immune system is significantly reduced, our gut biome changes, and our mental health suffers. As one of the biggest influencers acting on the body, knowing how to recognize, reduce, and cope with stress is a crucial skill.
We often hear about how important exercise is to the health of our bodies. Not only does exercise increase our respiratory and cardiac health while reducing fat and oxygenating blood, but exercise also releases endorphins that help to reduce pain and elevate your mood. Exercise also reduces the body’s stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.
Meditation and visualization are also effective stress reducers. You can take a break just about anytime and anywhere to enjoy the benefits. An increasing number of studies have shown that meditation is more than deep breathing to calm yourself down. Practiced meditation can actually regulate brain waves, leading to a more balanced, calm system.
Seven: Get plenty of sleep
Sleep experts would say that sleep is more important than any other factor, including diet, exercise, and social distancing. While your age and natural disposition may mean you generally require more or less sleep, everyone should attempt to regularly get about eight hours of high-quality sleep.
Some simple tips for better sleep include:
- Engage your mind during the day, so it’s ready to sleep at bedtime.
- Get your steps in each day to reduce fidgeting and lactate build-up in your muscles.
- Prop your upper body up slightly to keep sinuses clear and promote healthy digestion.
- Avoid alcohol and don’t drink coffee at least eight hours before bed if you have trouble falling or staying asleep.
- Reduce the room temperature and turn the lights off. You might even consider wearing a sleep mask. People sleep better in cool, dark environments.
- Don’t leave the TV on while trying to sleep.
- Put distractions, such as your phone, in a completely different room. Even if you use your phone as an alarm, you can turn up the volume, so you hear it or get a small, inexpensive travel alarm to take its place.
- Anyone who has a chronic sleeping problem should seek the advice of a healthcare provider who can test for disruptive conditions, such as apnea, sleepwalking, and more.
We mentioned earlier that exercise is a great way to reduce stress. It’s also a great way to boost your immune function. Medically, everyone should get a minimum of 20-30 minutes of sweat-inducing exercise at least four days per week. More exercise is better.
It’s not just about sweating out toxins. When you are physically active every day, you flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways, reducing the likelihood that the cold or flu will be able to replicate and take hold as a full-fledged infection.
The brief rise in body temperature also helps to keep bacteria from growing and will help your body fight any infection that may be getting started, similar to the way a fever fights infection. Plus, your blood will be better oxygenated, which encourages clearer thinking as well as easier transport of nutrients throughout the body, making your entire system stronger.
Nine: Drink The Right Fluids to Prevent Flu
Drinking water helps to flush toxins, carries nutrients, and lubricates many of the body’s most basic functions. Many people reach for soda and flavored beverages throughout the day. And it’s common for people around the world to have a nightcap each night.
When you’re trying to avoid flu and other infections, clear liquids are better – clean water is best. When you drink other liquids, the body must expend valuable resources to do the additional work of filtering for water to hydrate. Then it must use additional resources to process the additives, sugars, and other ingredients.
If you drink coffee, tea, or other water-based fluids, they should be in addition to the standard eight fluid ounces of water you should drink each day. When you think you may be dehydrated and feel like you can’t get enough water, consider liquids with electrolytes. Gatorade and Powerade are popular choices, but these also contain flavors, unnecessary calories, and other ingredients. Pedialyte can also be a good choice for fast hydration.
Ten: Flu Prevention With Immune Boosting Habits
Sometimes you just need more than sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet to stay in tip-top condition. And sometimes you need more of a boost. Habit-building and biohacking are great ways to add layers to your immune defense systems.
First, make sure your sleep, diet, and exercise are routine. You can’t eat a salad, do some push-ups, and expect a healthy immune system. Consistency is the key to overall health and well-being. Habits also lead to less stress, even in those who enjoy spontaneity.
Second, use sunlight to your advantage. Longer and shorter days trigger a number of bodily responses. Sunlight also affects your mood, sleep habits, and immunity. Try to get 15-minutes of sunlight every day. When environmental factors limit your available time outside, you can also use a UV lamp to supplement your sunlight intake.
Third, consider fasting to help boost immunity. When done correctly, fasting can actually rebuild your immune system. When you fast for 24-hours, up to 2-4 days, the body saves energy by getting rid of old, damaged cells, giving the okay to stem cells to proliferate, therefore rebuilding and rejuvenating the entire immune system.
Eleven: Fortify Your Body Against The Flu With Supplements
While best practices and great habits are crucial to your overall health, it can be tough to guarantee that you’ll have regular, balanced infusions of the best ingredients on a daily basis. Supplements are a great way to ensure you are optimizing your health.
Multivitamins will help you make sure you have the vitamins and minerals your body needs, but they lack the more complete ingredients you need. To beat the flu, you need a complete profile of supplements to kick your immunity into high gear.
Choose high-quality metabolic enzymes to ensure you have the building blocks for healthy cells. Try taking probiotics and prebiotics, they will balance your gut biome, therefore restoring your entire body. Consider infusing your dietary intake with nutrient-dense blue-green algae in a supplemental form to ensure your body always has access to the best possible immunity-boosting sources.
Does vitamin c prevent flu?
Yes and no. Vitamin C is an excellent way to support your immune system. It enhances the production and functioning of white blood cells that kill unwanted pathogens and release enzymes to eliminate pathogens. The recommended daily intake for adults is 75 to 120 mg. The body can only process so much, so taking too much vitamin C won’t be absorbed, which is a waste. Instead, vitamin C is best when paired with other flu-fighting, immunity-boosting supplements, and vitamins.
What are flu symptoms?
Influenza is consistent if nothing else. Some symptoms that are common to just about everyone include:
- fever or feeling feverish/chills.
- dry cough.
- sore throat.
- runny or stuffy nose.
- muscle or body aches.
- fatigue (tiredness).
- some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults.
What are the differences between flu and cold?
While the symptoms are similar, the best way to tell whether you have a cold or flu is by using these three indicators: onset, fever, and timing.
- Onset refers to how quickly symptoms present. Flu comes on quickly, but a cold will develop gradually with symptoms showing up a little at a time and building on each other.
- Fever is a symptom of flu, but not necessarily a cold, especially a fever of 101 degrees or higher.
- Timing refers to the time of year. Getting flu during flu season is common, but off-season flu would be very rare.
How to prevent getting flu after exposure
It can come as a surprise to many, but exposure doesn’t mean you will develop symptoms. People can be carriers without ever getting sick. There is also an incubation period of about two days. If you think you’ve been exposed or feel the onset of symptoms, this is the perfect time to take immunity-boosting precautions.
What if I get the flu?
If you get influenza and have underlying health conditions or are over 60 years old, it’s best to consult a medical professional to help you manage symptoms and get treatment for a faster recovery. Most cases clear up in 7-10 days, so many choose to manage the illness from home with bed rest and fluids.