It’s that time of year again—cue the coughs, sniffles, achy joints, and feverish chills because flu season is just around the corner. No one looks forward to those annual symptoms, but now in the aftermath of COVID-19, it’s more crucial than ever to protect yourself and others from the threat of illness. On that note, here are some easy and effective steps you can take right now to boost your immune health as flu season arrives.
Wash Your Hands Consistently
Chances are, you’ve heard this sentence more times than you can count over these past few years, but it’s still one of the simplest ways to avoid germs. Lather both hands entirely with soap (including under the nails and between each finger), then scrub for 20–30 seconds before you rinse the soap off with water. It’s also a smart idea to carry a bottle of antibacterial, antimicrobial hand sanitizer with you in case soap and water aren’t available.
Sanitize Your Home and Office
Who doesn’t want a clean space to live and work in? This is beneficial all year round but is especially vital during flu season. Of course, you can do the routine disinfectant wipe-downs on your own, but for a deep, thorough sanitization, you’ll want to call in a certified professional cleaning service. Whether for the home or office (or both if your home is the office), breathe easy, knowing that each surface, nook, and cranny is germ-free.
Stay Home if You Feel Feverish
If we learned anything from this pandemic, quarantine slows the spread. You might feel pressure to power through normal activities even when you’re sick, but if you notice flu-like symptoms, don’t leave home if possible. Sometimes you can’t miss work or school, but if you do have the option to avoid being out in public, take it. You will heal faster when you carve out time to rest and protect others from contracting the illness.
Remember to Get a Flu Vaccine
It’s also smart to vaccinate yourself before peak flu season is in full swing. The CDC recommends vaccination in September or October, preferably before Halloween. Try not to put it off until 2023, as the most severe months of flu season are projected from February through May. The flu vaccine is free with most Medicare or health insurance coverage. Check with your local clinic or pharmacy to inquire about any out-of-pocket costs.
Consider Wearing a Face Mask
National mask mandates have been lifted here in the U.S., but as flu season rounds, you might want to have at least a face mask on hand. This is particularly worth considering if you (or a loved one) are immunocompromised or if you’ll be traveling on a plane within the next several months. While wearing a mask can be uncomfortable and inconvenient sometimes, it never hurts to take extra precautions in certain situations.
Take an Elderberry Supplement
Elderberry isn’t a treatment to heal or prevent the flu, but when used with other health and safety measures, it can help lessen the severity and length of flu symptoms. That’s because elderberries contain nutrients known to alleviate inflammation in the respiratory tract, according to BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies Journal research. You can find all-natural elderberry supplements at most health food stores.
Don’t Neglect Healthy Self-Care
This might sound obvious, but the most basic healthy habits are also the most effective when it comes to illness prevention. Are you eating nutritious meals full of fresh, seasonal whole foods? Are you sleeping a minimum of 7–8 hours per night? Are you maintaining a consistent exercise routine? These essential lifestyle practices will ensure that your entire body is strong, resilient, and functional enough to prevent the flu and other viral infections.
Look for Ways to Reduce Stress
There’s no shortage of circumstances to feel stressed or anxious about these days, but too much stress could take a major toll on your immune function. A recent study in the BJPsych Advances Journal found that chronic stress can cause fatigue, exacerbate inflammation and repress the body’s natural germ defenses. So find a soothing outlet to ease your stress levels, whether it’s a creative pursuit, a nature walk, or a therapy session.
Flu Season Is Almost Here—Take Action Now to Beat It
If you want to finish 2022 as healthy as possible (and who doesn’t?), now is the time to take precautions for this year’s flu season. Each action step is easy to follow, and they can make all the difference in your well-being. So don’t wait until flu season is actually here—be proactive to keep yourself and those around you safe from illness.