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10 health hacks experts suggest to avoid getting sick


Monday, December 14, 2015, 3:15 PM

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With sick season upon us, medical practitioners chime in on ways to cut your likelihood of catching a cold or the flu.

With cold and flu season in full swing, many find themselves wincing at the first sneeze or tickle of the throat.

There are, however, some tried-and-true tricks that may diminish the likelihood of contracting a cumbersome virus.

Here are 10 health hacks experts say can slash your chances of becoming under the weather:

1. Protect your paws

Hands harbor a ton of bacteria, so medical professionals say it’s important to scrub them thoroughly with soap and water as frequently as possible.

“The running water helps rinse away the bacteria you’ve loosened with the soap,” said Dr. Nora Lansen, a family practitioner at One Medical Group in New York City.

“Always make sure to dry hands with a clean towel afterward — one that’s old and harboring bacteria will negate even the best handwashing technique.”

2. Sweat it out — but don’t go overboard

Experts say that in order to evade a cold, you’ve got to feel the burn.

“Regular, moderate-intensity exercise several days a week may enhance your ability to produce antibodies,” Dr. Lansen said.

These antibodies help ward off illness.

But don’t commit exercise-overkill — Dr. Lansen cautioned that too much activity can actually have the reverse effect.

“Studies have shown that intense bouts of exercise can actually weaken your immune system, leaving you more prone to infection,” she said.

3. Take your supplements

Vitamins play a vital role in maintaining good health.

“Vitamin C is important to take in supplement form because we do not get enough of it from our food and it is known for its immune boosting abilities,” said Dr. Ken Redcross, founder of Redcross Concierge Personalized Medicine.

Vitamin C however, has only proven to diminish the severity and duration of a cold rather than wholly prevent them, according to Dr. Lansen.

“You’ll need a dose that’s higher than average — 1000 mg, three times a day,” she suggested.

Popping a probiotic pill everyday may also curtail a cold by two days, with symptoms becoming 34% less severe, according to a 2011 Rutgers University study.

“The same live cultures that can ease digestive stress can also stave off colds,” Dr. Redcross said.

4. Catch some Zs

Medical professionals recommend eight to nine hours of shut-eye per night to prevent a case of the sniffles.

“Your immune system’s job is to eradicate viral and bacterial infections from your body, and it needs the proper support,” Dr. Lansen said.

“Not getting enough sleep releases the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses your immune system. So, if you’re routinely staying up too late, getting up too early or just not letting your body get the rest it needs, you won’t have the resources required to stay healthy when cold and flu germs are all around you.”

5. Lose the booze and slash your smoking

It is well-documented that alcohol and smoking may deplete the immune system.

“Smoking can often make you more susceptible to cold, flu and other infections. Try to give it up completely or at least cut it down to a minimum during the winter season,” said Dr. Marina Gafanovich, an internist in Manhattan.

6. Don’t stress

The holiday season can bring on an onslaught of anxiety. But doctors say, relax — stress can incite a slew of illnesses.

“Minimize stressful situations as stress can weaken your immune system significantly,” Dr. Gafanovich said.

Physicians say it’s imperative to implement techniques that quell the crippling effects of stress.

“Anything that helps you blow off steam — like yoga, exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, journaling — will aid in the cause to stay healthy,” Dr. Lansen said.

7. Sip lots of fluids

Fluids flush bacteria from the body — so drink up.

“The increase in fluid in your body will help to flush out metabolic waste,” Dr. Redcross said.

“When the mucus membranes of the nose and throat get dry, it inhibits the natural drainage system that carries any viruses or bacteria encountered down to the stomach to be flushed out. Drinking water keeps the mucus membranes in the nose and throat moist and better equipped to fight germs.”

8. Become a diligent disinfector

People may pester you for being a “germaphobe,” but doctors say that disinfecting surfaces at home and at work is an indispensable defense against infections.

“Make sure you keep all surfaces in your home clean — this includes countertops, sinks, light switches, remote controls, doorknobs and drawer pulls. Use a disinfection solution for maximum results,” Dr. Gafanovich said.

9. Maintain a healthy diet

“It is always a good idea to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the year,” Dr. Gafanovich said.

But particularly during the winter season, doctors say that ramping up healthy eating habits is of utmost importance.

“Boost your immunity by incorporating plenty of vegetables and whole foods and avoiding added sugars and preservatives,” Dr. Lansen said.

“It stands to reason that a diet filled with empty calories won’t give your body the ammunition it needs to fight off invading cold viruses.”

She added that implementing an ingredient like garlic to your diet is a tasty health-booster.

“Garlic is rich in a compound called allicin, which has been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties that can help ward off colds and flu,” Dr. Lansen said.

10. Take a shot at the flu vaccine

Some physicians advocate the flu shot as a viable option to reduce the risk of getting sick.

“The CDC recommends that anyone older than six months get the vaccination as soon as possible — even if you got the shot last year. Also, remember that by getting vaccinated, you’re protecting those around you, especially those too young to get the flu shot themselves,” Dr. Lansen said.

Dr. Gafanovich agreed.

“Despite all the ifs and buts about it, the flu shot does reduce your chance of getting the flu,” she said.

There are, however, some limitations to the vaccine. Dr. Redcross said it only prevents against a handful of strains of the illness.

“Also keep in mind that the flu shot can take two weeks to build your body’s immunity, so if you come into contact with the viruses within the two weeks, you could still get sick,” he cautioned.


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