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How to Avoid Getting Sick

You know the feeling. It starts with a few sneezes and maybe a cough or two. Then perhaps a sore throat. Next comes a runny nose, possibly some congestion, and before you know it, you're sick. It's a horrible feeling and unfortunately, something most of us will experience in our lives time and time again. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. Each year, millions of Americans catch the common cold—adults average 2-3 colds per year while children get even more. (1) And when it comes to the flu, the CDC reported that in just a six-month period from late 2018 to early 2019, somewhere between 37.4 million to 43 million flu illnesses were reported. (2) So how do you avoid getting sick when it seems like a nearly impossible task? Well, there are ways to reduce your risk factors. For one, most doctors recommend getting a flu shot every year, particularly during flu season in the fall and winter. That said, the flu vaccine only helps protect against certain strains of the flu viruses, not all of them. (3) Read on to discover more natural ways to keep yourself well no matter what time of year it is.  

8 Ways To Avoid Getting Sick

The common cold and flu viruses are spread by means of droplet infection: when an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets containing the viruses are released into the air, which is why it's so easy for germs to spread. Although there's no cure for the cold or flu, there are some practical steps you can take to lessen your chances of catching a cold or other viral infection.  

1. Get Enough Sleep

You probably already know that sleep is a major factor in your mental, physical, emotional, and overall well-being. That's because sleep is the time when your body heals and restores itself, and it has a direct impact on your immune system. (4) What's more, ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke among other conditions. (5) While requirements vary, most adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. To ensure a good night's sleep, put away your phone or any other electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime and try reading a book or magazine instead. This will help reduce stimulation and better prepare your body for rest.  

2. Follow a Healthy Diet

A balanced diet filled with a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, protein, and whole grains is essential for good health. But if your body is not getting enough of the nutrients and vitamins it needs, then your immune function can get compromised. A 2018 study on mice found that dietary fiber may protect against the flu and boost the immune system. (6) Also, even though vitamin C is not a panacea for cold or flu prevention, research has found it to be a safe, low-cost, and consistent way to reduce the duration and severity of colds. (7) Limit your intake of processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats and your body will reap the rewards.  

3. Practice Good Hygiene

Many viruses and bacteria live on surfaces, whether it's a door handle, computer mouse, or that cold hard cash in your pocket. You can infect yourself simply by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face, nose, eyes, or mouth. To minimize your risk of infection, make sure you wash your hands regularly throughout the day. Hand washing is a great way to keep germs at bay, but if you don't have any soap and water available, you can use hand sanitizers or antibacterial wipes. Just make sure they don't have triclosan—the controversial ingredient was banned from soap products by the FDA in 2016, yet it's still found in many hand sanitizers. (8)  

4. Stay Hydrated

Without water, humans can survive for mere days. That alone says enough about how crucial water is for our bodies. Water helps carry nutrients and oxygen to the cells, flushes bacteria from the bladder, aids digestion, stabilizes heartbeat, protects organs and tissues, and so much more. (9) Yet how many of us actually drink as much water as we're supposed to on a daily basis? Doctors at Harvard Medical School suggest that 4 to 6 cups a day is generally OK for healthy people, but if you have certain health conditions or exercise rigorously, it's best to talk to your healthcare provider to make sure you're getting the right amount.  

5. Stay Away From Sick People

It might seem like a no-brainer, but it bears mentioning. When people are sick, it's best to not have any close contact with them. If you're in an office with sick co-workers, try to keep in-person interactions to a minimum, use triclosan-free hand sanitizers, don't share pens, utensils, or cups, and wipe down surfaces that they've touched. And don't be afraid to encourage them to stay home—after all, sick days are there for a reason.  

6. Exercise More

It's no secret that regular physical activity can improve your overall health and reduce the risk of a number of chronic conditions and diseases ranging from stress and anxiety to heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. But what about the common cold or flu? Well, a 2016 study on adults found that exercise (and meditation) improved immune function and reduced the risk of acute respiratory infection and respiratory illness. (10) The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 2.5 hours to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity every week. (11)  

7. Minimize Alcohol Consumption

News flash: Drinking plenty of fluids does not mean consuming large amounts of alcohol. Because alcohol is a depressant, it impedes the central nervous system and impairs both physical and psychological activity. Studies have long shown that excessive alcohol consumption is related to many adverse immune response effects including susceptibility to pneumonia, while newer research indicates it can also lead to acute respiratory infections, certain cancers, and slower healing. (12) Although some health benefits have been linked to drinking red wine in moderation, keep in mind that many studies making these claims are inconclusive.  

8. Take Immune-Boosting Supplements

Adding immune-boosting supplements such as probiotics, zinc, and mushroom extracts can be an effective and natural way to maintain overall health. Given that 70 to 80 percent of immune system cells are found in the gut, it's no surprise that probiotics are directly linked to a healthy immune system.(13) Multiple studies have also found that mushrooms are highly anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants such as selenium, which plays a key role in immune function. (14) Mushrooms are also a good source of prebiotics, which promote gut health. (14) Check out our guide on must-have natural immune boosters for even more options.
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How To Avoid Getting Sick While Travelling

Traveling is one of life's greatest pleasures, but it can also be one of life's biggest giant germ fests! Whether by foot, plane, train, or automobile, traveling can expose us to countless bacteria and viruses. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind before your next big trip.
  • Drink bottled water, especially when traveling abroad. Drinking tap water might be fine for locals, but the bacteria in some water could be disastrous for foreigners.
  • Plan ahead and get the recommended vaccinations for particular regions and destinations.
  • Hydrate with water—especially when flying—to avoid dehydration and compromising your immune system.
  • Use antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers to clean any surfaces that you'll be touching.
  • Pack your vitamins and supplements like those mentioned above. And take them! They won't do you any good if they just stay in your bag.
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Stay Well, Friends

Getting sick might be an inevitable part of life, but you can certainly take steps to keep illness at bay. A healthy diet, regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, and taking natural supplements are just some of the ways to achieve optimal health. What else can you do? Bookmark this page. That way, the next time you feel a cold coming on, you'll have all the essential info you need to avoid getting sick in the first place.
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