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Explore Everyday Health

To proceed, simply complete the form below, and a link to the article will be sent by email on your behalf. Note: Please don't include any URLs in your comments, as they will be removed upon submission. We do not store details you enter into this form. Please see our privacy policy for more information. Click here to return to the Medical News Today home page. Although most cold and flu infections occur during the fall and winter seasons , the viruses responsible for these illnesses are present year-round.

Fighting off a viral infection takes its toll on most people, causing them to miss days at work and valuable time with their friends and families. In this article, we describe eight evidence-based ways to avoid getting sick, so people can maintain their health and make the most of their time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC , getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against seasonal flu infections. The flu occurs when a person becomes infected with an influenza virus. Flu vaccines contain influenza antigens, which signal the immune system to produce antibodies.

These antibodies can protect against invading flu viruses and keep people from getting sick. There are four types of influenza virus, all of which can mutate throughout the year. These mutations can reduce the effectiveness of seasonal flu vaccines. If the vaccine is well-matched to the circulating influenza virus, it can prevent 40—60 percent of flu infections. While flu vaccines do not guarantee total immunity, they can reduce the severity of symptoms and lower the risk of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. How long a virus can remain infectious on these surfaces depends on a variety of factors, such as the temperature and humidity.

However, a study suggests that influenza viruses can survive outside the body for extended periods, possibly even months. People can lower their risk of infection by using products that contain alcohol or bleach to disinfect frequently used objects, such as countertops, desks, and keyboards.

When using disinfectants and cleaning products, it is essential to read the labels and follow the instructions carefully to ensure that surfaces are properly disinfected. Common colds and the flu are types of respiratory infection. The viruses that cause these illnesses replicate in the mucus membranes that line the respiratory tract, and they can travel through the air in tiny droplets of mucus. This means that people with a cold or the flu can spread the virus whenever they cough or sneeze.

For example, influenza viruses can travel up to 3.

Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu

People can reduce the risk of infecting others by staying home when they are ill and covering their faces when they sneeze or cough. Viruses can enter the respiratory tract through a person's eyes, nose, or mouth. A person can infect themselves by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their face. Washing the hands regularly and thoroughly with clean water and soap is an effective way to protect against viral infections. According to the CDC, proper hand washing can result in a 16—21 percent decrease in respiratory illnesses, such as colds and the flu.

If soap is not available, a person can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. A range of hand sanitizers are available to purchase online. According to a review , zinc deficiency can lead to a weakened immune response and inflammatory skin conditions. People with a weakened immune response are less able to fight off infections.

A meta-analysis suggests that zinc lozenges can reduce the duration of common colds by about 33 percent. Participants in the study were consuming between 80 and milligrams of zinc per day. Dietary fiber has many health benefits, including regulating digestion, preventing constipation , and lowering the risk of a number of health conditions.

Herbs for Preventing Colds and Flu

A study in mice suggests that dietary fiber may also boost the immune system. The researchers compared the immune responses in mice that ate a low-fiber diet with those that ate a high-fiber diet. The results of the study suggest that the short-chain fatty acids present in dietary fiber enhanced the mice's immunity to influenza infections. Smoking is a known risk factor for several diseases, such as cancer , asthma , and respiratory infections.

Breathing in secondhand smoke can also increase a person's risk of developing these conditions. People who smoke or regularly inhale cigarette smoke are also more likely to experience severe symptoms when they get colds or the flu. According to a review , cigarette smoke can affect the immune system and reduce a person's ability to fight off infections.

Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke are great ways to improve overall health and reduce the chances of getting sick. Regular physical activity can improve a person's general health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of a number of illnesses, including:. In addition to these benefits, research from indicates that physical activity can also improve a person's immune function and decrease their risk of respiratory infections. A study also examined the benefits of meditation and exercise for preventing acute respiratory infections.

The 8-week study followed participants, who the researchers had randomly assigned to one of three groups:.

10 Natural Ways To Avoid The Cold And Flu | HuffPost Life

The researchers reported a 14—33 percent reduction in the number of acute respiratory infections among participants in the MBSR and EX groups, compared with the control group. However, to experience substantial health benefits, they recommend that adults do at least minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. A person can spread this activity throughout the week. Viruses are present all year, but there are ways to prepare for cold and flu season and to reduce the chances of becoming sick. Getting an annual flu vaccine and practicing good hygiene are great ways for a person to protect themselves and others.

Some lifestyle and dietary changes that can reduce the likelihood of getting sick include regular exercise, increasing zinc and fiber intake, and quitting smoking. We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline UK and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link s above.


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Article last reviewed by Tue 12 February All references are available in the References tab. Getting a shot can reduce your risk of illness by 40 to 60 percent on average. If you get the flu after a vaccination, the shot may reduce the severity and duration of your illness. Due to the high risk of complications in people over the age of 65, you should get your flu vaccination early in the season, at least by late October. Talk to your doctor about getting a high-dose or adjuvant vaccine Fluzone or Fluad.

Protect Yourself to Prevent Colds and Flu

Both are designed specifically for people ages 65 and older. A high-dose vaccine contains about four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot. An adjuvant vaccine contains a chemical that stimulates the immune system. These shots are able to build a stronger immune response to vaccination.

In addition to getting your annual flu shot, ask your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccinations. These protect against pneumonia, meningitis, and other bloodstream infections. If someone in your home has the flu and you might become exposed to the flu virus, you can reduce your risk of infection by keeping surfaces in your house clean and disinfected. This can kill flu germs. Use a disinfectant cleaner to wipe down doorknobs, telephones, toys, light switches, and other surfaces several times each day.


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  • The infected person should also quarantine themselves to a certain part of the house. Because the flu can be dangerous in people over the age of 65, visit your doctor if you develop any symptoms of the flu. Symptoms to watch for include fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches, headache, tiredness, and runny nose.

    Natural Cold Treatments

    If taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms, an antiviral may shorten the duration of the flu and reduce the severity of symptoms. The flu virus is dangerous in the elderly and can lead to life-threatening complications. Take preventive steps to protect yourself and reduce the risk of illness. Talk to your doctor about getting a flu vaccination, and be proactive about strengthening your immune system and avoiding contact with sick people.