2020 may have changed every aspect of normalcy that we both love and loathe, but one thing remains the same: Fall is the cold and flu season. And this year could be worse than ever, with both flu and COVID-19 cases rising and what Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly warned the potential for “tweak chemistry” will be. ”
Fortunately, there are precautionary measures each of us can take to minimize the risk of contracting the flu or COVID-19 and increasing the likelihood of a faster recovery if we are unlucky enough to catch one of the many viruses that do rave in just a month or two.
“You can control your own destiny by keeping your immune function strong so your body is ready to defend itself if you are exposed to a viral pathogen,” says Dr. Charles Elder, Primary Care Internist and Senior Physician, Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Kaiser Permanente Northwest.
8 Ways To Prepare For Flu Season During The COVID-19 Pandemic
1. Get your flu shot
The influenza vaccine lowers the risk of catching the flu by 40 to 60 percent every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (This assumes that the viruses circulating match the strains they created the formula for.)
Still, only 45 percent of those over 18 were shot dead in 2018/19 – and most of those numbers were in people over 50, the CDC reports.
One reason for this is access. Another reason is skepticism: people do not believe that vaccines are safe (all our experts assure this). A big part of this is that most people don’t believe that a 40 to 60 percent protection probability sounds very high. Hence, it’s not worth getting the shot.
“While it’s not 100 percent effective at preventing the flu, some protection is better than none,” said Sandra Kesh, assistant medical director and infectious disease specialist for Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, NY.
For starters, the vaccine cuts your chances of getting influenza by about half. “It’s important to remember that the flu itself is a huge infection. Influenza can cause inflammation of the lungs, heart, brain and other organs and, in the worst case scenario, lead to respiratory failure, encephalitis, heart failure, sepsis and death” explains Kesh.
At the very least, it will plunge you into a deep hole of snot, pain, and sheer misery for at least a week, if not longer.
Also, lowering your chances of catching influenza decreases the chances of getting anything from a bad cold to the novel coronavirus itself. “Any time your body is infected with a virus, chances are that you are more prone to other infections, including COVID-19,” Kesh explains.
To top it off, if you get the flu despite being vaccinated, this shot will reduce the chances of developing complications from the virus, including pneumonia.
Everyone should get the flu vaccine unless your doctor advises them not to, adds Elder (the main exception is if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to the shot in the past). Anyone who is pregnant, very old (65+), or very young (between 6 months and 5 years old) should definitely get the shot.
And the sooner the better – it takes about two weeks to build antibodies from the gunshot and influenza activity in the US, which will go into circulation in November. So get your shot no later than October, adds Elder.
Talk to your employer about offering vaccination programs away from the office, as the CDC director currently directs companies to do. However, you can also schedule your shot at a local pharmacy, doctor’s office, and even some schools.
2. Keep exercising – but don’t go too hard
Exercising regularly (at moderate intensity) improves your immune defenses and lowers your risk of disease, according to a 2019 report in the Journal of Sport and Health Science. Indeed, a single workout will boost your immune boost. Try to increase your heart rate slightly for at least 30 minutes a day, even just for a walk.
To strengthen your immune system and ensure a strong defense against the flu and COVID-19, you should reduce the HIIT and the two days per season: The same analysis shows that an athlete has a much higher risk of illness during times of intense training and competition. “Exercise should remove stress from the physiology and not create stress on it,” Elder added.
3. Keep stress under control
“A high level of stress and anxiety can make us more susceptible to viral infections,” says Elder. Meditation and mindfulness are two of the most popular stress reducers. If you’re new to regular practice, start with this 10-minute meditation session for beginners.
Even small steps to maintain a positive attitude can help keep you out of stress, adds Nicole Avena, P.hD., visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University. Your Concern: If a situation is stressful or angry, try to list three good things about it. You may have had to quit to help your brother-in-law move again, but at least it made your partner happy, you exercised, and you helped someone.
4. Increase your product intake
“Micronutrient deficiencies can affect how well your body can defend itself against colds and flu,” says Avena. “Food in general can be your best ally when it comes to boosting your immune system and staying healthy.”
We don’t have definitive data on which vitamins and minerals affect your immune system the most. However, if you want to focus on getting a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in a day, it will improve your fortification. Avena adds that consuming foods rich in prebiotics (garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, oats, apples, flaxseeds, and seaweed) can contribute to a healthy intestinal environment, which is vital to health while Antioxidants (walnuts, pecans, salmon, berries), leafy vegetables, ginger and herbs) fight oxidative stress that can damage immune cells.
Fresh produce is always best, but if those aren’t available to you, taking a multivitamin can help provide essential micronutrients. (Avena likes clean brands like Vitafusion and Frunutta.)
5. Spice it up
“Many common household spices have immunomodulatory properties that support your immune system,” says Elder. This follows much of the same rationale as eating more whole foods and products: Spices promote proper digestive function and are high in antioxidants, which helps build a strong and healthy immune system. Most also have their own beneficial properties. For example, cumin and turmeric have been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, says Elder. He recommends including healthy spices like cumin, turmeric, coriander, ginger, and fennel in your daily diet.
6. Drink warm, sugar-free drinks
Adequate hydration is key to giving your organs all the tools they need to fight infections like the flu and COVID-19, and to keep you healthy. But in the fall you swap cold drinks for warm ones: in addition to the latter, which are far more calming (good for stress), the Ayurvedic tradition – India’s indigenous health system – follows that anything cold or sweet (especially both) is Kapha “Dosha, the physiological principle that promotes mucus production, explains Elder.”
Excessive mucus in the airways is not only uncomfortable, but also a sign of imbalance – things are getting out of hand. “It is a sign that we are heading and that we are more prone to trouble,” Elder added.
7. Be very careful about sleep
Proper sleep is one of the most important immune boosters identified by all three experts. “Sleep is essential to keep your immune system healthy and to restore your body’s overall balance – especially when the weather turns cold and the relaxation of summer comes to an end,” explains Avena.
Aim for a constant duration of 7 to 8 hours per night. However, if you wake up a lot at night or are still tired in the morning, add another 30 to 60 minutes. “Quality matters and if you don’t have a full, relaxing 7 to 8 hours, you’re not helping your immune health,” she adds.
Also, try going to bed early (10 p.m. is ideal) and getting up early – this will align with your natural rhythm and take away the physiological stress that late nights can lead to, Elder adds.
8. Wash your hands
The daily hygiene of our pandemic life is actually the recommended hygiene to prevent all viruses including the common cold and flu. Hand washing, wearing masks, and social distancing are incredibly important if you don’t want to catch the flu or COVID-19 this season, Kesh recalls.
Subscribe to YouTube for access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more!