Some people love the crisp air, holiday lights, and frosty mornings of winter, but there's one thing everybody hates—seasonal illness. Colds, flu, and other viruses can knock you off your feet and leave you feeling miserable. You can, however, lessen your chances of coming down with a nasty cold.
Take a look at these six ways to stay healthy this winter and you might manage to avoid seasonal viruses. If you do come down with something, we've rounded up some tips on how to beat the bug more quickly.
1. Eat healthily
There's something about winter that makes you want to snuggle on the couch eating chips and candy bars, but eating healthily boosts your immune system, which helps it kill off viruses that make their way into your body before they can make you sick. Fruits and vegetables are vital for a strong immune system—leafy greens and anything rich in vitamin C (such as red bell peppers and citrus fruit) are especially beneficial. Ideally, you should aim to eat at least five to eight three-ounce portions of fruit and veg each day. We all have days when we don't manage to eat enough fruit and vegetables, so taking a multivitamin doesn't hurt.
2. Wash your hands
Although some viruses are airborne, lots of germs get into your system via your hands. If you touch something that someone sick has touched, sneezed on, breathed on, or otherwise infected and then touch your face or eat a sandwich, you can introduce those germs into your body. Regular hand-washing is one of the most effective ways to keep viruses at bay. When you're out and about and might not be able to wash your hands as much as you'd like, carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you to use after eating or after touching something extra germ-ridden, like a handrail or ATM keypad.
3. Sanitize EVERYTHING
Okay, you don't have to sanitize everything, but items or surfaces you touch regularly can be a hotbed for germs. Phones (both cell phones and landlines), tablets, computer keyboards, work desks, and remote controls are all prime offenders. Invest in a packet of antibacterial wipes to sanitize these items every couple of days or after someone who's sick has touched them.
4. Keep up with your exercise routine
You might not feel like getting up early for a run before work when it's pitch black and freezing cold out, but exercising boosts the immune system and can therefore help you build up a better defense against winter bugs. If your usual exercise routine isn't sustainable during the coldest months, try adapting your activities. For instance, you could go to the gym and run on a treadmill instead of running in the snow or rain.
5. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is yet another immune-boosting activity, so if you needed an excuse to retire to your bed at 8 p.m. or sleep in until noon on the weekend, this is it! You don't need to head to bed when the sun goes down, but sleeping for eight to ten hours a night can go a long way toward staying healthy.
6. Avoid people who are sick
It's not always possible to avoid people who currently have a cold or other virus, but doing so where possible will greatly decrease the risk of getting ill yourself. If you're meeting up with a friend or family member who's got a cold or cough, suggest rescheduling until they feel better.
Boosting your immune system makes you more likely to stay healthy when everyone around you is getting sick.
Some bugs you just can't avoid, no matter how much kale and hand sanitizer you throw at them. Only time will completely get rid of a virus, but you can speed the process up or make yourself feel better. These are our top tips to beat that bug:
Take vitamin C. Several studies have found a correlation between taking high doses of vitamin C and decreased length and severity of colds.
Take zinc. Like vitamin C, some studies suggest taking zinc can shorten the length of a cold. In the case of zinc, it may shorten your cold by as much as three days.
Drink tea. Tea naturally contains theophylline, which dilates the bronchioles in your lungs, helping you breathe more easily.
Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is important while you're sick, but especially if you have a productive cough, since being well hydrated helps loosen mucus, making it easier to cough up.