1. Wash your hands like it’s your job.
Our hands are powerful germ transmitters. Someone with the flu touches something, you touch that same something, and then you touch your mouth, nose, face, or eyes, and you’ve just given the virus a leg up into your body. Boo!
Of course, you always wash your hands after you use your bathroom, but to avoid flu you’ll want to add a little more hand-washing to your routine. After a trip to the grocery store, for example, wash those hands before you put your food away. Do the same when you get home from work or a night out.
It’s also a good idea to keep your hands away from your face. Your nose, mouth, and eyes are all easy entry points for flu germs. You don’t have to obsessively wash your hands, but if you’re the type of person that touches your face a lot, you may want to do a little extra hand-washing to protect yourself.
2. Take your vitamins.
Vitamina A, C, D, and E all help support your immune system, so make sure you’re getting plenty! Here are the recommended daily allowances for each (for adults):
- Vitamin A – 900 micrograms
- Vitamin C – 75-90 micrograms; take an extra 35 micrograms per day if you smoke
- Vitamin D – 600 IU, but for extra flu protection you might want to up it to 1000 IU
- Vitamin E - 15 milligrams or 22.4 IU
Of course, you can also get more of these vitamins by adding vitamin-rich foods to your diet. Try orange veggies – like carrots and sweet potatoes – for vitamin A, citrus for vitamin C, and avocados for a vitamin E boost. The only one that’s tricky to get through diet is vitamin D.
3. If you can, quarantine!
This can be a tricky one, especially if you work in an office. If your cube-mate or office-mate has the flu, you might strongly suggest that he head home to rest. Yeah, to rest! If you have your own cube or office, try to hide out there, if the flu is going around on your floor.
At home, you can try to keep the sick away by putting some space between you and your sick spouse or roommate. That doesn’t have to mean avoiding them completely, of course! It just means doing what you can to avoid their germs. Maybe don’t sit right next to them while you watch a movie, and if you’re having supper together, now’s a good time for you to volunteer to do the cooking.
When my husband got sick a few months ago, he slept in the guest room to try to keep the germs off of me, since being pregnant and sick totally sucks. I don’t think we would have done something this extreme if I hadn’t been pregnant, but I do think it helped! I managed to avoid getting his cold.
4. Get plenty of exercise
You knew exercise was good for your heart, but there’s more and more evidence that it supports a healthy immune system, too!
Moderate exercise can help protect you from the flu, but the key here is moderate. Endurance exercise, like distance running, can actually weaken your immune system, especially if your body isn’t conditioned to it.
5. Cut back on booze.
Too much alcohol can make your immune system less able to fight the flu.
One study looked at how 4-5 drinks a day effects immune health, and it’s probably no surprise that this level of alcohol consumption suppresses immune activity significantly. Of course, 4-5 drinks per day is a lot of boozin’! Like with anything else, it’s all about moderation.
If you want a glass of wine after a tough day, you’re probably not doing anything to harm your immune system, but if you’re a regular drinker, cutting back can make a big difference. Having an occasional drink is fine – in fact, it could even help improve bone health! – but limit yourself to 1-2 drinks, and cut it out completely if you’re feeling run down.