Preparation checklist: Are you ready for cold and flu season?By Dr Dunner October 15, 2018
As the first days of fall arrive, the chill in the air feels thrilling. The leaves change color and pumpkin-flavored items are back on the menu. But the colder temperatures are also an indication that cold and flu season is around the corner.
Cold weather itself doesn’t make you sick, but infectious germs do. The sudden impact of colder temperatures, fluctuations in light and dark cycles, and drier air can combine to weaken immunity and encourage germ transmission. Thanks to longer days indoors, the winter months are also associated with weakened immunity from lower levels of melatonin and Vitamin D.
During the annual cold and flu season, about 50 different flulike illnesses circulate. Not all of these ailments are the flu, but all can feel pretty awful.
Prepare yourself and your family for cold and flu season, and banish the sniffles from your healthy household! This handy checklist is your guide to keeping the smile on your face this winter. Test your cold and flu readiness against these best practices— how many have you already implemented?
1. Make sure that the whole family gets their flu shot. Flu vaccines have been proven to reduce the severity of not only influenza, but also colds and other illnesses. Flu shots have been shown to reduce doctor’s visits, missed work and school absences. For vulnerable populations like those with chronic illness, pregnant women and the elderly, vaccinations lead to fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
2. Stock up on supplies. Basics like tissues, hand soap, hand sanitizer and disinfectant are staples in sickness season. Cold compresses can relieve headaches and reduce fevers.
3. Load up on treatment. Consider what kinds of treatment you’d feel good about using if you or your family caught a cold. We recommend the healing power of all-natural anti-inflammatory agents in elderberry, elderflower and echinacea — herbs which carry little to no risk of side effects. Studies have shown these powerful herbs to reduce the duration of the common cold by several days!
4. Hydrate! Proper water intake is key. Herbal hot teas can also soothe symptoms of illness and provide amazing benefits from their natural properties. Convincing children to hydrate properly can be more challenging, so some pediatric nurses recommend high-water-content fruit such as watermelon and grapes, or blending popsicles from healthful ingredients. Try our delicious Sambu Guard for Kids popsicle recipe — they’ll never know that this sweet treat is designed to be good for their health!
5. Stock up on ready-to-go meal options. Easy-to-make nutrition will let you rest instead of cooking. Canned soup is a comforting, delicious option if you catch a cough in the winter months.
6. Eat healthy and exercise regularly. A balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables boosts your vitamin intake and keeps your immune system happy. Getting your body up and moving strengthens not only your muscles, but also your body’s readiness to fight harmful pathogens.
7. Get enough sleep. Whether you want to avoid a cold or recover from one, sleep is a key immunity-booster. Read more about our tips for healthy sleep hygiene here. Research has shown that people who got less than seven hours of sleep per night were three times more likely to catch a cold than their counterparts who got at least eight hours of shut-eye per night.
8. Test your thermometer. When you or a family member starts to feel feverish, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you have a working thermometer.
9. Make disinfecting convenient. Station a bottle of hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes in every room. Disinfect common germ traps on a schedule; set yourself a calendar reminder to regularly disinfect your desk and work materials. At home, remember to disinfect things like doorknobs, remote controls and even light switches. Of course, our phones can also be havens of germs.
10. Be strict about hand-washing. Germs travel rapidly from hand contact; wash hands thoroughly and as often as needed. Never skip hand-washing after visiting the bathroom. A common trick to get children to wash their hands for the appropriate length of time is to tell them to sing “Happy Birthday” twice before rinsing.
11. Avoid touching your face. During cold and flu season, keep your hands away from your face and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. The sensitive tissues in these areas are highly receptive to germs from the hands.
12. Prepare your humidifier. If your household doesn’t have a humidifier, consider a cool-mist model instead of a hot-water vaporizer. Cool-mist humidifiers don’t carry the same burn risk. If you have a humidifier, make sure you’ve given it a good cleaning before the start of cold and flu season.
13. Get outdoors. Take advantage of fresh air! Sunny days are a healthy dose of Vitamin D in the long winter months. Bundle up, and don’t forget the SPF — sunburn can happen even in the cold.
14. Consider stocking up on activities. Not only is being sick a drag on the body; it’s also a drag in general. Pick up a few new distractions to save in case your kids get sick, such as puzzles, books, art materials or DVDs. Plan what books you’d read or shows you’d watch if you had to take a few sick days.
15. Prepare your emergency time-off plan. Do you know your workplace policy on sick days? Do you have a go-to contact in case you need help to watch kids if they’re sick and you can’t be home?
16. Stay positive! A sunny and bright attitude can boost the immune system. Laughing, smiling, relaxing, and doing kind things for yourself and your body goes a long way.