Flu Season Fact vs. Fiction: What Actually Keeps Us Healthy
Does going outside with wet hair make you sick? Does drinking orange juice each day really make your immune system stronger? Going into flu season, now is the time to get the answers to these questions and separate fact from fiction. Fortunately, medical experts have done the research to help us understand what actually keeps us healthy at this time of year, so you know the facts, and can stop worrying about the myths. Prevention is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family this season, so keep reading to learn about the real ways to keep the germs at bay!
Facts: The Best Ways to Keep Germs Away
Hand washing is STILL the number one way to prevent the spread of germs
The number one way to prevent the spread of germs is to wash, wash, and wash those hands with soap frequently. Remember when you were little and you learned that you should wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song? Well that’s true for adults too! Wash with warm soap and water, and sing happy birthday to yourself so you know how long to do it. If you are prone to dry skin, be sure to moisturize after each hand wash to keep your skin nice and healthy, as healthy skin also acts as a defense against germs. Skip the antibacterial gels and soaps, since these kill the good bacteria on your hands as well as the bad.
Keep your hands out of your eyes and mouth
In addition to keeping your hands clean, you want to keep them away from your eyes and mouth. Putting your hands close to your face is a major way to spread infection, so keep them away from your face as much as you can, especially during the germiest times of the year. Resist the urge to touch your face in general, which is good for both immunity and skin.
Boost your intake of vitamins C and D to help fight off germs
Vitamin C is great for the immune system, and getting vitamin C from your diet is a great way to boost immunity and shorten the duration of your cold if you do happen to get one. Focus on getting plenty of dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, papaya, cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberries, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and bell peppers into your diet during cold and flu season. For vitamin D, it’s easier to meet your daily requirements in supplement form. Look for a plant-based vitamin D3 supplement and make sure it includes Vitamin K2.
Supplement with Echinacea
Echinacea is an herbal supplement that is excellent for the immune system, and a great way to prevent the common cold or decrease the duration of a cold if taken at the first sign of symptoms (but don’t take daily otherwise). Echinacea has a complex mix of active substances, some of which are said to be antimicrobial, while others are believed to have an effect on the human immune system.
Sip on herbal tea with raw honey
Raw honey contains powerful antimicrobial properties that can help fight off a viral or bacterial infection, and it can also help coat and soothe a sore throat if you have already come down with a germ. Try sipping on herbal tea with raw honey throughout cold and flu season as a protective, preventive measure.
Moving your body regularly can help keep you healthy
Not only is exercise great for maintaining a healthy weight, it’s also great for your immune system. Exercise can help promote circulation, which is great for moving toxins and germs out of your body. Just make sure to nourish your body with whole and nutrient-dense foods and an abundance of water after.
Stress reduction can help keep your immune system in tip-top shape
Stress can lead to all sorts of health issues, and a weakened immune system is one of them. Stress can trigger inflammation, and chronic stress and inflammation both have serious health implications. If you have been under a ton of stress for a long period of time, it’s essential to practice daily stress reduction through things like yoga, deep breathing, and doing things that you enjoy. Chronic stress is very taxing to the immune system, so if you find yourself getting sick multiple times each cold and flu season, it’s time to take a look at your stress levels and how it may be impacting the health of your immune system.
Getting enough sleep can help ward off a cold or flu
Getting enough sleep is key for overall health and immune function. It’s the time our bodies reset, restore, and rejuvenate. It’s also a time that our bodies heal, and if we are battling a germ, sleep is the best medicine. Be sure to make sleep a priority, especially during the germy times of the year. Strive to get as close to the recommended eight hours of sleep every night if you can.
Myths: You Can Ignore These Old Wive’s Tales
Going outside with your hair wet will make you sick
Chances are, someone at some point has told you not to go outside with your hair wet because you are going to get sick. This is a common idea, but it’s not true. A cold or flu is caused by a viral infection, not a wet head of hair. You would have to be so cold that you were hypothermic in order to actually cause your immune system to weaken enough to make you susceptible to catching a cold or flu from wet hair alone.
Holding your breath when someone coughs or sneezes will help prevent you from catching a germ
While many of us may just naturally hold our breath when someone around us sneezes, it probably isn’t doing anything. If the person who sneezes isn’t covering their mouth, those saliva droplets are going to bounce around everywhere and land on everything, and holding your breath can’t really prevent that.
If you Don’t Wear a Jacket, You’ll Get Sick
This is similar to the first one, and likewise untrue. Not wearing a jacket isn’t going to make you more likely to get sick. Germs are caused by viral or bacterial infections, and germs are more likely to circulate inside than outside. So, even if you go outside without a jacket in the colder weather, it isn’t really going to make you more prone to getting sick. In fact, as we discussed above, physical activity is actually going to help you stay healthy, and getting outside for your exercise is even better than doing it indoors.
Wearing Garlic Prevents Colds
You actually have to eat garlic for it to ward off germs. Wearing garlic may keep vampires at bay, and annoy your coworkers and family members, but it won’t keep you from catching a cold. If you are trying to boost your immune system with garlic, you should be eating it raw as often as you can — not wearing it.
The Bottom Line
We all want to stay healthy and avoid catching colds or coming down with the flu. There are lots of proven things we can do to boost our immune systems, like following a healthy diet, doing regular exercise, getting quality sleep nightly, and stress reduction. So focus on those, and don’t worry about the old wives tales!