Follow this Protocol to Avoid Getting Sick This Season
By: Jessica Perez-Beebe
This article, and the first 6 things on the list comes to your courtesy of SELF magazine. It’s a good start, but it’s missing some very important au-naturale approaches that I’ve added at the bottom of the article – My Personal Go-To Preventatives. I’ve also sprinkled my purple opinion throughout.
Welcome to cold and flu season, the time of year where not only do you have to drag yourself out of bed while it’s dark and foreboding outside, but you also have to sit in an office listening to a chorus of coughing and sneezing all day long. It’s only a matter of time until you catch that bug making its way from one end of your workplace to the other. But luckily, whether or not you get sick doesn’t have to be left completely up to chance. There are some things you can do to help keep you from suffering the same snotty fate as your co-workers—though, you can never be 100 percent in the clear.
First, you need to accept the reality of the situation: Germs spread like wildfire in an office or other common space, and especially while traveling, which a lot of us do in the winter to escape to warmer climates.
“When people sneeze, cough or even talk, they are spreading little droplets that can contain influenza and other viruses,” Romney M. Humphries, Ph.D., section chief of clinical microbiology and an assistant professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, tells SELF. These droplets become airborne and then settle on surfaces. Depending on what virus or bacteria a person has, you may not even need to interact with them to catch their germs in a shared space. Some bacteria and viruses, like the flu, for example, can survive on hard surfaces for at least a day, Humphries says. “Other viruses and bacteria don’t do well once they are outside the human body, and die quickly in the environment.”
Instead of accepting that you’ll just become sick and miserable, here are six things you can do to avoid getting sick when everyone you know is.
1. Wash your hands more.
“This is the best way to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent spread of germs to others,” Humphries says. The goal is to kill any germs you touch before they make their way to your mucous membranes—eyes and nose—where they can set up shop and make you ill. If you can’t get up and wash your hands easily throughout the day, “using an alcohol-based hand s is a good alternative,” says Humphries.
I hate hand sanitizer, because it smells bad and it dries out my skin! No thank you. I’ll stick to one of my easy DIY natural non-toxic hand sanitizers. No harsh chemicals. No harsh smell.
2. Avoid touching your face.
Specifically, your eyes and nose. Touching germs and then these areas gives said germs easy access into your body. So wash those hands and avoid the temptation to touch to make it harder for them to find an entry point.
3. Wipe down your work surface.
“This will help prevent the buildup of germs and reduce the chances of you getting exposed,” Humphries explains. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean off your workspace twice a day in the middle of flu season.
I do this, especially on planes! But I use the hydrogen peroxide option listed in my DIY sanitizer.
4. Get vaccinated.
This only helps with the flu, not a cold or other random viruses. But the flu is kind of a big deal. “This is the easiest, most effective way to protect yourself against getting sick,” Humphries says. “Flu vaccines cause your body to make antibodies against the flu. It’s important to get vaccinated annually, because the flu viruses change a lot year-to-year, and last year’s vaccine will not protect you.” It’s still possible to get the flu if you’ve been vaccinated, but it’s often much milder.
This is Self magazine’s recommendation. And I am not making a case for or against vaccinating. It’s a personal preference. But personally, I have NOT been vaccinated since my early 20’s, and I haven’t had the flu since I was a teenager, up until which time I seemed to get it every year! I know there are some people who are more susceptible to contracting the flu (those working on ships, like my husband, for example, or those who have pneumonia, etc.). But for the rest of us, it has been my experience that if we are taking care of ourselves from the inside out – with food, exercise, and adequate rest and stress reducing practices, vaccines are likely not necessary. Of course, we each need to make our own educated decision.
5. Get more sleep.
Having a healthy immune system that helps your body fight off invading germs is another important way to stay healthy. “In general, trying to live a healthy lifestyle can improve your immune system and help prevent you from getting sick,” Humphries says. One important part of that is getting enough sleep. “The number one thing you could be doing is getting enough sleep,” Anthony Lyon, M.D., medical director of The Ash Center in NYC, tells SELF. When you don’t prioritize sleep and push yourself too hard, your body is less prepared to fight back against bacteria and viruses, and you get sick more easily. If you’re a restless sleeper or have trouble winding down at night, Lyon suggests practicing deep-breathing meditation.
I couldn’t agree more! Especially in the winter months, which according to Ayurveda natural medicine, is the one season that we actually allow ourselves to sleep in a little longer, in keeping in alignment with the shorter days. It is suggested that you actually go to bed an hour earlier in the winter, not sleep in an hour later.
But be careful. If you’re someone who is prone to seasonal mood disorder, you could find yourself sleeping too much. If that’s the case, set an alarm so you’re not sleeping more than 9 or 10 hours max, and get outside for 5 minutes of fresh air as soon as you wake up.
Did you know? Winter is also the time of year that our bodies require more fuel to stay warm and healthy, so you may find yourself eating more often or in larger quantities. Since our digestion is also strongest in the winter, it’s not a big deal, as long as you’re not overdoing it!
6. Remember that healthy habits = healthy life.
Eating healthy and exercising regularly can also have a positive impact on your immune system and put you in the best position possible to stay healthy. So when everyone around you is ill, let that be a reminder to keep up with your fitness routine (yes, even when it’s cold outside) and fueling your body for the good fight. Don’t overdo it, though. Pushing yourself too hard can actually run down your immune system and make you more susceptible.
Of course I agree with this point!
So here are my additional recommendations…
My Personal Go-To Preventives – Au Naturale
- Cook with these immune boosting spices as often as possible – fresh ginger root, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, fennel, black pepper. Turmeric and ginger are my favorites, because they are so anti-inflammatory. Almost every dish I make includes fresh ginger, even my skinny pumpkin protein muffins!
- Avoid cold drinks and foods during the winter. According to Ayurveda, like increases like and opposites balance. In the winter, when your body is working to warm itself, adding cold drinks and foods to your system will only negate the bodies natural tendency, which will strain your digestive fire and weaken your immune system. The cold months are the perfect time for cooked foods, warm soups, stews, and teas. Think soft, warm, nourishing.
- Neti-Pot Nasal Rinse. If you are someone who experiences nasal congestion, sinus symptoms, or frequent colds, nasal irrigation with the Neti Pot may provide relief. I do this almost daily during the changing of seasons (particularly from summer to fall, and winter to spring) when there are a lot of changes in air and blooming. I also use it through the winter months as needed.
- Colloidal Silver drops or spray. Colloidal silver is used to treat numerous conditions, but is also widely used as a preventative measure. Because my family and I travel often, we carry this spray with us and spray it on the roof our our mouth before, during, and after travel. It acts as a “throat coat” to protect us from airborne debris, coughs, sneezes, etc. This is the brand we use.
- Natural Hand Sanitizers. Specifically when traveling. Here is my DIY list.
- Breathing. Did you know that deep breathing instantly reduces stress and increases oxygen to your brain, and that regular deep breathing techniques strengthens your digestion and reduces inflammation? Try adding any one of these deep breathing (pranayama) practices every morning and/or evening for just 5 minutes, and feel what a difference it makes in your body and mind. My favorite is alternate nostril, and most times just left nostril breathing, which calms and cools my active mind.
Do you have any Go-To preventative practices that you follow? Please share them in the comments!