15 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick

6 minute read

By Jordana Weiss

While there are plenty of medications that advertise their ability to quickly cure a cold or flu, there’s no medication better than prevention. Fortunately, if you start a search online, you can find tips for staying healthy this fall and winter.

Nothing will ruin a beautiful crisp, cool day faster than the tickle at the back of your throat that heralds the oncoming of a common cold. It’s way easier to stay on top of your health so you don’t get sick in the first place!

Avoid close contact with people who are already sick

This is the easiest way to stay healthy: just stay away from people that are already sick. Cold and flu germs are easily transferred through particles in the air, and by touch. It doesn’t even have to be direct contact — people who are already infected with the influenza virus can spread it to people up to 6 feet away.

If you’ve had someone in your home who is sick already, make sure to disinfect anything they’ve had contact with. Maybe just wait until after they’ve left, if you want to be polite.

Stay home from work if you start experiencing symptoms of cold or flu

Next time you’re feeling bad about not going in to work because of a cold or flu, think of all your coworkers who pass within 6 feet of your desk in a single day – remember, that’s the distance at which a person with influenza can infect another person — and congratulate yourself for not passing on your illness to them.

Even if you’re not sure if you’ve got a full-blown cold, it’s easier to take really good care of yourself for a day than it is to spend another week dealing with your cold once you already have it. Take your sick days. You deserve them!

Drink plenty of water

Keeping yourself hydrated, especially when you’re sick, is extremely important. While you’re sick, your body is working overtime to fight the infection, so the least you can do to be of assistance is to keep it well hydrated with plenty of water.

Plain water is good for you, but you can make it even better with a few additions. Some people find that hot water with honey and lemon will help soothe an irritated throat and clear out mucus, in addition to the hydration benefits. Give it a try!

Wash your hands

It’s extremely important to wash your hands frequently during cold season, especially if you live or work in a high-density area. After all, you never know who around you is already sick and contagious.

Washing your hands well, with plenty of soap and hot water (and not skimping around the nail area, where germs can hide out) will really help keep you healthy all winter. It’ll also help prevent the spread of germs in general, which means you’ll be doing your part for others as well.

Get enough sleep

It’s harder for your body to fight infection if you’re exhausted. A full 8 to 10 hours a night will really help your body regain its infection-fighting strength.

Many find it harder to sleep when their nose is stuffed up with mucus. If you’re already dealing with symptoms of a cold, piling up a few pillows so you’re not lying down flat may help this problem and let you get some much-needed shuteye.

Get your Vitamin C

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic recently discovered that taking Vitamin C can lessen the severity of cold symptoms if taken immediately before symptoms present themselves. Research shows that unfortunately it won’t prevent the cold from happening, but by taking it preventatively, you can lessen the severity of your symptoms.

There are plenty of ways to get your Vitamin C in. Orange juice is one of the most popular sources of Vitamin C, especially for children, but there are other great sources of this vitamin as well. Hibiscus tea and cranberry juice are also both extremely high in Vitamin C.

Take Echinacea

Echinacea is also a supplement that is recommended to help lessen the severity of cold symptoms. It’s actually the main medicinal ingredient in the popular cold medicine, Cold FX.

Although scientists don’t believe that it can prevent a cold, it can lessen the severity of symptoms if taken for 7-10 days in a row. It can be taken either as a supplement or in the form of tea.

Don’t avoid exercise completely!

Many people find themselves trying to cure themselves of a cold or flu by lying on the couch and sleeping all day. While we don’t blame you for feeling the need to hibernate until the sickness passes, you should try to fight those urges if you can.

While it’s important to ensure that you’re properly hydrated and rested enough to fight your cold or flu, one important thing that this treatment lacks is sweat! Many people find that they can sweat out their cold through exercise.

Don’t just eat comfort foods

Another popular tactic for fighting colds is to indulge yourself with comfort food if you’re feeling ill. Many people simply don’t feel up to eating a full meal if they’re sick, so they fill up on easy to digest food like noodles, porridge, and soup. While this does make a lot of people feel better, the fact is a lot of these foods are pretty low in actual nutrients.

Next time you’re sick, order in a bowl of hearty vegetable soup, or toss up a big kale salad. You’ll give your body much-needed energy and nutrients to fight off your infection.

Get vaccinated against the flu

Many people feel that the first line of defense against the influenza virus should be the influenza vaccine. This is why many doctors advocate that their patients get vaccinated. Many public health departments, workplaces, and schools even offer free flu clinics to make vaccination more accessible.

Getting vaccinated also helps others stay safe. While it’s true that the flu does little damage in a healthy person, it can be a death sentence to someone already ill or with a compromised immune system. The more people get vaccinated, the more the possibilities of infection for these vulnerable people goes down.

The flu vaccine is re-developed often to include new antibodies, so doctors recommend getting a shot every year.

Quit smoking!

Smoking changes the structure of your lungs, making it easier for infections to settle in for the long haul. Research has found that mice exposed to smoke from even just two cigarettes a day had much more tissue damage and inflammation in their lungs after being exposed to a flu virus than mice not exposed to smoke at all.

If you’re a smoker, and find that you are persistently fighting off a cold that won’t go away, you should seriously consider quitting. Your lungs will thank you.

Keep the air around you moist

Cold winter air, plus artificial indoor heating, can really dry out your sensitive nasal tissue, making it easier for infections to take hold. You can help out your hard-working nose by running a humidifier while you sleep at night, which will return moisture to the air.

Drinking plenty of water during the day can also help with keeping your body hydrated. There’s nothing worse than waking up completely dried out.

Take advantage of essential oils

Although the essential oils trend has really taken off in the last few years, people have been using the powers of oils for centuries. Many companies now offer blends of oils specifically for fighting sickness that people can either apply directly to their skin, or diffuse in a tabletop diffusing unit.

If you don’t have any of the specialty blends available, seek out basic oils like lavender (which is antimicrobial), tea tree (which helps fight congestion), and peppermint (which helps expel mucus). These can easily be found in pharmacies or health food stores.

Get a massage

Many healthcare practitioners advocate frequent massages during flu season because it increases circulation, which in turn supplies muscles with much-needed blood and oxygen. Muscles that are tense make it hard to relax, which in turn makes treating an illness much more difficult.

Many people also believe that reflexology can help treat colds once they’re already established. This is a great option if you’re already homebound. Some people use a special reflexology stick, but you can just use your thumbs.

Disinfect your phone

Have you ever thought about how many times you put your phone down on a dirty surface, then bring it up to your face to talk on it? If you’ve never thought about cleaning your phone, you definitely should start — especially if you already feel the tell-tale tickle in the back of your throat.

Every time you touch your phone after handling money, riding the bus, or petting an animal, you’re bringing those germs within mere inches of your mouth and nose. Cleaning your phone regularly with a sanitizing wipe will help cut down on the number of germs that you breathe in.

Jordana Weiss