14 Tips for When You’re Too Darn Busy to Get Sick
Here, the immunity-boosting tips you need to stop from getting sick this cold and flu season.
Wash your hands throughout the day
Touching everyday items like door handles and other surfaces can be difficult to avoid. “To help combat germs, wash hands frequently (especially after coughing or sneezing) with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds,” says Andrew Sussman, MD, president of MinuteClinic and executive vice president and associate chief medical officer of CVSHealth. Always on-the-go? Try alcohol-based disinfectant wipes to combat cold and flu-causing germs, suggests Cedrek McFadden, MD, clinical assistant professor of surgery at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.
Drink plenty of water
“Drink at least one full glass of water (two is better) as soon as you wake up,” encourages Edison de Mello MD, PhD. “This helps your body get rid of metabolic waste and will reset your system.” And be sure to sip enough throughout the day— at least 64 ounces—to flush out toxins and help your mind and body better deal with the stress. Here’s why you need to drink water when you’re stressed.
Keep a consistent routine
Studies show that that routine keeps your body in balance. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time seven days a week. Be sure wake up with enough time for you to stretch, eat a healthy breakfast and take a shower. (Speaking of, read up on the reasons you should consider a cold morning shower.)
Keep a glove handy
“Use a glove to open doors, touch handles and any other common surface where viruses may lurk. You don’t need to put it on, just use it,” says Matilde Parente, MD, California-based physician and author of Healing Ways: An Integrative Health Sourcebook. “Other options are clean tissues or damp paper towels you’ve just used to dry your freshly washed hands.”
Protein-pack your breakfast
“Research shows diets too low in protein can minimize the function of your immune system,” notes Dr. de Mello. Protein and carbohydrates give your body the fuel it needs to get you through the day (this includes normal daily functions, including warding off sickness). Short on inspiration? Try one of these protein-packed breakfasts.
Get a flu shot
“Getting a flu shot is the most effective way to protect yourself and your family from getting the flu,” according to Dr. Sussman. Even in the middle of winter it’s not too late to get vaccinated; flu season typically peaks in January or February. (Not surprising given that cold weather is linked with increased chance of illness.)
There’s a direct correlation between how much skin you expose and the amount of body heat lost. (It’s called catching a chill for a reason.) So do yourself a favor and prepare to get cozy—we’re talking sweaters, scarves, gloves, hats, coats, warm socks, and boots. Don’t miss the surprising reason you should wear a hat this winter.
Take your vitamins
Stock up on immune-supportive supplements, vitamin D, and probiotics. “Research shows that the herbal combination in immune support and vitamin D together with a strong and colony-rich probiotic, can significantly increase your immune response to disease, decreasing excess inflammation and thereby shortening the duration of illness,” explains Dr. de Mello. Feel a cold coming on? “Load up on vitamin C and echinacea, which may help lessen the severity and shorten duration of the illness,” says Vish Banthia, MD, board certified physician and CEO of ZendyHealth. Too late and already caught a cold? Read up on the 11 things you can do to make a cold less miserable.
Eat nutrient-rich, whole foods
“Incorporate plenty of warming, anti-inflammatory ingredients, like ginger and turmeric, and vitamin C-rich foods, like citrus fruits and dark leafy greens. My go-to easy vegetable stir fry is packed with good-for-you veggies and spices to boost immunity all winter long,” says Lily Kunin, health coach, plant-based cook and creator of Clean Food Dirty City.
No, we’re not suggesting you up and start training for a marathon or take up CrossFIT, but moderate exercise is a must. Aim for 20 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. This will help you sweat out toxins, rev up your metabolism, and boost your immune system. (Don’t miss the gym-bag accessories that will make you psyched to work out.)
Take care of your gut
Get your daily dose of fermented veggies, kefir, and probiotic-rich foods. “By maintaining a healthy balance of gut flora, you will be able to fight infections more efficiently. Remember that over 75 percent of your immune system’s vital processes occur in your gut. So make it strong,” urges Dr. de Mello. Here are the top 13 probiotic foods.
Encourage coworkers to stay home if they’re sick
A recent CVS Pharmacy consumer flu survey found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of employed Americans would still go to work even if they were feeling ill with flu-like symptoms. “It’s important to understand the preliminary symptoms of the flu, and if you see your co-workers around you experiencing them, encourage them to stay home to prevent spreading germs around the office,” says Dr. Sussman.
Catch more sleep
You already know this, but it bears repeating: Sleep is super important! Aim for a minimum of seven hours per night. Insufficient sleep compromises your immune system, mood and concentration. Struggling to get the sleep you need? Find out the 10 ways to naturally reset your sleep cycle.
“If you’re feeling under the weather, take a step back. Don’t push yourself further than your body allows you,” says Dr. de Mello. A step beyond that, be consciousness of how you feel mentally and emotionally. Are you putting undue stress on yourself? Try these five-second strategies for shutting down stress ASAP.