Staying Healthy during the Cold & Flu Season

This year, we are contending with a few different respiratory illnesses in the U.S.: The common cold, the flu, COVID-19, and now, RSV. They present similarly, usually with a cough, fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, congestion, or runny nose. In order to help you avoid these symptoms this winter season, here’s a short list of things you can do to bolster your immune system and keep your surroundings germ free.

The easiest way to bolster your immune system is by choosing a whole foods, plant based diet, avoiding sugar and processed foods.

  • Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that bolster the immune system. Aim to have a variety of types and colors throughout your day, totaling about 7 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit daily. Some examples of anti-inflammatory & immune supporting foods are garlic, turmeric, ginger, leafy greens, berries, and citrus fruits.
  • Water is key to flushing toxins out of the body, and ensuring proper function of the cells in the body. Try to have 8-10 glasses of water daily, and more if you are very active.
  • Protein, particularly lean sources of protein, such as tofu, lentils, beans, fish, and poultry are key to tissue repair, and can help your body recover following illness. 
  • Fermented foods are an underrated supporter of overall immune health.  About 70-80% of our immune cells are found in the gut, and fermented foods provide the good bacteria our gut needs to facilitate a healthy gut microbiome. Our providers recommend you incorporate 2 fermented foods into your diet each day, which can include things like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and kefir. 

Moderate intensity exercise for 60 minutes or less can help to pump the blood through the body, spreading immune cells for the detection of infection, increasing the body’s temperature to kill bad bacteria, and reduce inflammation.

Adequate sleep is one of the most important factors in ensuring proper healing. Getting a full night’s rest of at least 7 hours helps to maximize infection fighting antibodies in the body, helping you to recover faster.

The annual flu vaccine protects against all of the most common flu strains in the U.S. each year. For the 2022-2023 flu season, the CDC estimated that influenza caused 26-50 million illnesses, 290,000-670,000 hospitalizations, and 17,000-98,000 deaths (CDC, Sept. 2023). Getting the flu shot every year can help you to reduce the risk of serious flu complications or avoid it entirely. If you have yet to get one this season, call our office to schedule your flu shot today!

Remember to also stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. According to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again this holiday season (CDC, Dec. 2023). The latest COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna were released in September of 2023 and are specifically designed to target the XBB lineage of the Omicron variant. Getting a booster shot can help to restore protection against severe COVID-19 illness that may have lessened over time (CDC, Nov. 2023).

As for the RSV vaccine, ask your primary care physician if getting one is right for you. 

You never know what kinds of pathogens are being carried and spread by those around you. Keep yourself healthy by sticking to these rules:

  • Have a COVID-19 home test kit on hand and test as soon as you develop respiratory symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, fever, or congestion. 
  • Avoid close contact with those that are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, and urge others around you to do the same
  • Wash your hands throughout the day (Tip: Sing the “Happy Birthday” song in your head twice to ensure you are washing for long enough!)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Avoid sharing personal items: utensils, drinking glasses, water bottles, & cosmetics
  • Vitamin C is useful in stimulating the production of white blood cells, which are key to the body’s ability to fight infection. Some great sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, and berries. 
  • Vitamin D3 can be less prevalent in your body during the cold winter months. However, studies have shouwn that if you are dificient in vitamin D, you may be more susceptible to infection. Taking a supplement with about 2000 IU of vitamin D3 can help.
  • Zinc lozenges have been found to reduce the duration of a cold due to its ability to activate T-lymphocytes, which attack infected cells.
  • Elderberry is a great source of antioxidants and can help limit activity of pathogens. Elderberry has been found to be particularly useful in activating the immune response against viruses.

Check out the Cold and Flu Bundle created by Dr. Johnson on our online supplement dispensary. Patients of our practice receive 10% off each order!

Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season,

Dr. James R. Johnson, PA Nazema Gosla, Dr. Ariana Zastrow, & Staff

(2023, Dec. 8). COVID Data Tracker. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(2023, Nov. 8). Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(2023, Sept. 28). 2022-2023 U.S. Flu Season: Preliminary In-Season Burden Estimates. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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