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8 Tips to Stay Healthy This Cold and Flu Season

by Deb Fulghum Bruce, PhD

Cold and flu season is upon us and viruses are lurking everywhere--at work, at school and even at home. Both cold and flu are considered family affairs, meaning when one person gets sick; the rest of the family does, too. It doesn’t have to be that way! Here are some helpful ways to stay healthy this cold and flu season.

1. Get a flu shot

The best way to stay well during cold and flu season is to get a flu shot. Safe and effective, this important vaccine can reduce the severity of influenza and may even prevent it altogether. The flu shot is especially important for small children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses such as asthma or diabetes and those with compromised immune systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months of age or older. Talk with your doctor about a flu shot for you and your family.

Shopping Tip: Flu shots are more accessible now than ever before. Your local pharmacist has you covered.

2. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of liquids during cold and flu season can help keep your body healthy. If you do get sick, force fluids, including chipped ice, water, clear liquids, juices, broth soups, gelatin, Pedialyte and ice pops. Liquids help to thin mucus and replenish the body’s fluids lost by fever, so you do not get dehydrated.

Shopping Tip: Stock up on Pedialyte, ice pops, gelatin and juices ahead of time.

3. Consider supplements

Vitamin C tablets with bioflavonoids or rose hips (which are the most easily absorbed forms) and zinc lozenges (especially zinc-gluconate with glycine) can help to support immune function. Zinc is a key nutrient necessary to fight infection.

Shopping Tip: Shop BOGO sales for great bargains when buying zinc lozenges and vitamin C tablets.

4. Keep your immune system at peak

Getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet and avoiding stress are keys for good immunity. Make sure family members have a regular sleep-wake schedule and schedule time for naps if sleep is interrupted. It is during the deepest stages of sleep that the body is revitalized and tissue damage is repaired. Pack fresh fruits in school lunch bags and serve plenty of vegetables and lean protein for dinner. Monitor schedules so adults and kids don’t take on more activities than they can handle.

Shopping Tip: Serve seasonal fruit and vegetables to your family to save money.

5. Don’t share germs

If family members do not feel well, make sure they have separate towels, eating utensils, drinking glasses and dishes. Don’t share toothpaste, and store toothbrushes separately to avoid spreading germs. Keep a few new toothbrushes around to use once the cold or flu has passed. Wash all bed linens and clothing of sick family members separately. Disinfect any items that have been handled by the sick person.

Shopping Tip: Get toothbrushes and toothpaste on sale for cold and flu season.

6. Stock up on tissues

Stock up on tissues during cold and flu season--plenty of them, too. Be sure get small, pocket-sized tissues for kids to tuck in their desks at school. Popular tissues today include infused tissues with a scent of menthol when you blow your nose. Kleenex® makes an anti-viral tissue that has three soft layers, including a moisture-activated middle layer that kills 99.9 percent of cold and flu viruses.

Shopping Tip: Get brand name or generic tissues at a BOGO sale and store them away.

7. Practice regular handwashing

Studies have shown that the simple act of handwashing throughout the day can prevent the spread of colds and flu to a significant degree. Washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water or with hand sanitizer is a must to avoid illness. Keep the hand sanitizer with you all day to remind yourself to stay clean. For little ones, sing the ABCs or Happy Birthday while washing their hands--that's how long it takes to guarantee the germs are gone.

Shopping Tip: Watch for sales on hand sanitizers and keep one in each room in the house, in your purse and in your car.

8. Know when to call the doctor

Viruses cause colds and flu—not bacteria—so don’t run to your doctor for an antibiotic. Antibiotics are effective for bacteria. Viruses must run their course. Still, if a family member is lethargic, excessively fatigued or despondent, has a fever higher than 101 degrees, a fever that lasts more than three days, ear or throat pain or has difficulty breathing, call the doctor.