Your Flu Risk Increases With These Habits
As the leaves begin to fall, so too does our health—it’s flu season everyone. It may still be warm enough where you live to wear shorts and tank tops but the flu doesn’t care about any of that. Influenza outbreaks tend to pick up in October and November, and become strongest December through February. That’s a five-month season. Flu season straddles fall, winter, and even the very beginning signs of spring. If you’ve had the flu then you know how it can ruin your life and plans for weeks on end. Since it is at its strongest during the holiday season, the flu may be the reason you had to cancel that Christmas cruise one year, or that trip home to see your family. Can’t it just come during a boring time of the year like…March? No, wait—that’s spring break. Okay, June? Er, actually, that’s when all the fun summer solstice events happen. Well, there is just no good time for the flu, which is why you should know about these habits that increase your risk for it.
Warming up with booze
Though you may want to face the chillier nights with a hot toddy or some red wine, alcohol decreases your immune system’s functioning. Lay off the booze until you’re clear of flu season.
Not washing hands diligently
There’s no such thing as being too diligent about washing your hands during flu season. Each time you touch a doorknob, sink lever, elevator button, or any of the other bacteria-ridden places in your home and elsewhere, you put yourself at risk.
Research has found that the smoke from electronic cigarettes may decrease the bacteria-fighting responses in the body. So this, like alcohol, is not a viable option for staying warm in cold weather.
Being friendly with the infected
So you have a standing engagement with your good friend who you haven’t seen in ages. But…she says she’s “getting over the flu.” Don’t let her come over, even if she says she’s on the mend. People can still be contagious even after they stop exhibiting symptoms.
Failing to get enough zinc
A zinc deficiency can be very hard on your immune system. Be sure to get plenty of foods containing zinc during flu season, like legumes, lean meat, shellfish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and whole grains.
Skipping your probiotics
Probiotics don’t only help your gut digest foods and keep you regular—they also play an important role in a functioning immune system. So just because you’re no longer fighting bloat for bikini season doesn’t mean you can stop taking probiotics.
Letting stress take over
Stress demolishes your immune system. Of course, once everyone is back from their summer vacations, work ramps up, kids go back to school, and life does become more stressful. Make sure you take steps to beat stress.
Hiding from the light
While you may not feel like going for a walk in the cold air, you should, just for the sunshine. A vitamin D deficiency can increase the chances of the flu, so get at least a little time outdoors.
This is a great time to work on your cleanliness habits. You should disinfect surfaces of your home regularly, and generally keep things tidy to decrease your chances of touching something carrying bacteria.
Not covering up
Some viruses die off quicker in normal core body temperatures than they do in slightly cold body temperatures. So bundle up!
Missing your echinacea
Echinacea boosts your white blood cell count, which is very important for a healthy immune system. You can take it in a tablet, or get it in certain healthful fall teas.
Touching your face
Don’t rub your eyes, pick your nose, pick something out of your teeth, or pick that pimple on your lip. If you introduce the flu bacteria to one of your orifices, you’ll be on the fast track to getting sick.
Not sleeping enough
Sufficient sleep is critical for a properly functioning immune system. Even though the changing of the sun’s schedule may be messing with your sleep schedule, make sure to do what you can to catch those REM cycles.
Sharing your treats
Everyone is bringing comforting muffins and brownies to the office now, but you should be very wary about the community treats. People will pick up one muffin, assess it, and put it down—and you don’t know if they washed their hands.
While you may not feel like rolling out of bed in the darker mornings for a jog, you should still make a point to exercise. Regular exercise is also important for keeping your immune system up and running.