Staying healthy during flu season

By: Sara Scheler

December 5, 2012

It’s that time of year: flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu symptoms peak during the winter months. It seems like every third person I talk to is either getting over a cold or coming down with one.  Read on for some tips to a speedy recovery and ways to boost your immune system to prevent further illness.

#1 Stay away from sweets. Sugar breaks down your immune defenses, which need to be in tip-top shape when you are sick. Stay away from desserts, sugary snacks, sweet breakfast cereal, sodas and juices. Your body will thank you.

#2 Fluids. Fluids are essential when you are healthy but they are even more important when you are under the weather. Drink plenty of water (just plain water—no sugary sodas or juices and certainly no alcohol. These items dehydrate you even more).

#3 Sleep. Telling a college student that they need to get more sleep is like telling a 2-year-old they need to share their toys. It’s a nice idea but it rarely works in practice. Even so, sleep is very important to your body’s health, especially when you are sick. Your body needs time to rest, recharge and repair—things it cannot do when you are awake. Take some nighttime cold medicine, turn off the lights and get a good 8-10 hours.

#4 Vitamins. I am sure you have all heard people recommend Vitamin C when you are ill. Although there is little scientific evidence that says this vitamin helps fight the common cold, a healthy diet is very important when you are sick. There are beneficial, immune-strengthening vitamins in fresh fruits and vegetables. Trade pizza and burgers for fresh salads, raw veggies and whole fruit. Fruit juices and smoothies do contain large amounts of vitamins but they also have a good deal of sugar and should be avoided.  Whole produce is always preferable to liquefied.

#5 De-stress. Stress depresses your immune system so if you are sick it is important to stay calm. Try some yoga, take a walk with a friend and stay in for a movie night rather than going out.

#6 Humidity. This might sound like a strange one but if you have a head cold, humidity helps clear up the sinuses. Take a hot shower, close your windows and turn on a humidifier if you have one. If you don’t have a humidifier, you may want to invest in one. Eating and drinking hot, watery items like soup and tea can help too.

#7 Keep your germs to yourself. Remember that even though your friends love you, they do not want your germs. Refrain from hugging and shaking hands until you are healthy. Use the Pyrex hand wipes in the computer labs before you touch a shared surface like a keyboard or mouse. Wash your hands after blowing your nose and remember to sneeze into your sleeve.

I hope these tips help you survive cold season and stay healthy during the stress of impending finals!