It’s flu season again, and your body needs special care during the next few months to stay healthy and strong. While extra precautions may not always prevent you from getting the flu, they can affect how quickly you recover and how badly you suffer from symptoms should you contract the virus. While full-ledged flu season lasts from December through March, early outbreaks begin cropping up now, in early fall. Here are some tips for caring for your body during flu season.

Tips for Caring for your Body During Flu Season

  1. Wash your hands.Wash long and wash often. Healthcare professionals recommend that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. During flu season, it’s best to wash for at least 30 seconds or longer, whenever you can. Use plenty of soap and running water, scrub vigorously, and don’t forget to scrub under your nails, between your fingers, up your wrists, and the backs of your hands as well. Dry thoroughly, and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet. You should wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, before eating, and after coming in contact with frequently contaminated surfaces like door handles, public bathrooms, money, light switches, and pens.
  2. Take your vitamins. A healthy body is better prepared to fight off disease and your body needs certain vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. If you don’t normally take a multivitamin, flu season is an excellent time to start. Look for a liquid multivitamin (such as Centrum Silver found at any WalMart) and follow the directions on the packaging. You can also visit your local health foods store to explore what herbal and organic options are available for vitamin supplements if you prefer more robust options. Liquid multivitamins work best because they are easy to absorb. Pill supplements can sometimes lead to digestive problems or pass through the system without ever being utilized by the body. Some healthcare professionals even recommend holding the liquid under your tongue for 20 seconds before swallowing to quickly absorb vitamins more effectively.
  3. Drink plenty of water.The majority of Americans don’t drink nearly enough water to regulate body systems effectively. Thirst is quenched by soda pop, sugary teas, and energy drinks. These drinks are not as easily absorbed by the body and do not fully fulfill your body’s requirements for hydration, no matter how much you drink. Your body needs unaltered water to carry out normal functions, including fighting off the flu. Try to get in at least 8-10 glasses of water every day, but even adding one or two extra glasses to your normal intake can help give your body’s immune system a boost.
  4. Avoid public places whenever possible. Do your grocery shopping at a time when there are fewer people in the store, avoid flying or traveling by bus when possible, and don’t go to unnecessary public gatherings during the flu season. The flu virus is contagious even in the early stages and many people continue their daily routine without knowing they are infected. This provides an opportunity for the flu to spread unchecked in public areas. If you do have to go to a public place during flu season, try keeping your hands in your pockets and keep your distance from others when possible. If it’s especially important that you do not contract the flu (if your immune system is currently compromised) wear a medical face mask or scarf over your nose and mouth when in public to reduce your chances of contracting the flu virus.
  5. Rest and exercise. Regular exercise and adequate rest each night will help strengthen your immune system and prepare your body for defense against colds and flu.
  6. Know your body.Know what your baseline temperature runs, check your blood pressure often, and pay close attention to any signs that your body is fighting off an infection. These signs can include a change in appetite, unusual hot or cold spells, paleness, changes in body temperature, an increased heart rate, decreased appetite, an increased thirst, changes in sleep patterns, or even irritability and body soreness. Early signs of the flu can include extreme tiredness, headache, body aches, and a runny nose.
  7. Get a flu vaccine.While flu vaccines are somewhat controversial, they are widely recommended by healthcare professionals and are still your best defense against contracting the flu.
  8. Visit your doctor at the first signs of contracting the flu.There are antiviral medications available now that significantly lessen the duration and severity of the flu, but they are only available from a doctor.

Taking extra steps to take good care of your body during flu season will often reward you with a flu-free year. However, if you do happen to catch the flu, these steps will prepare your body in advance to provide the best defense possible, thereby shortening the time you suffer with the flu and lessening the severity of the symptoms.