We’ve all felt it before – you wake up from a great night’s sleep with a little scratch at the back of your throat. The day goes on just fine as you go about your business at work, school, home, and in the community. But the next morning that scratch is worse, now feeling sore. Today, you just don’t seem to have the energy. Finally, Day 3 comes and that sore throat has gotten worse, joined by its ugly friends: the hacking cough, the fever, the congestion.
Even the healthiest minds and bodies get hit with illness from time to time. For city dwellers, constant contact with others promotes the spread of viruses and other contagious bugs. Most of us here in L.A. are willing to take that trade-off: exposure to illness in return for proximity to the vibrancy of people and communities. But that doesn’t mean we need to get each other sick! It simply means we need to try a little harder to protect ourselves from infectious agents. Here are a couple ideas.
There’s no Emergen-C!
Most people think stopping the cold and flu when the weather turns snappy involves chugging chalky vitamin cocktails, particularly ones of the Vitamin C variety. This persistent idea is part of the reason around half of Americans take daily vitamin supplements – which can contain 20 times the daily dose of Vitamin C or more.
The common belief that Vitamin C stops the cold can be traced back to one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century, chemist and molecular biologist Linus Pauling. Unfortunately, Pauling kind of made up the idea based on anecdotal personal experience, but he was so prominent at the time that millions took his word for it.
Rather, an extra apple a day
The evidence just doesn’t quite back Pauling up. Comprehensive studies have shown a high Vitamin C intake helps prevent cold for people under physical and environmental duress, like marathon runners and soldiers. But the average Angelino probably gets plenty of Vitamin C without realizing it, from fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and fortified grains. If you think you need more, you can always add an extra serving of fruit to your diet or simply a glass of OJ!
Keep it elementary
A much more beneficial idea than going Vitamin C-razy also happens to be very easy: wash your hands. Say it again with me… Wash your hands. The easiest way to pick up someone else’s bug is by shaking hands or touching a doorknob they touched. If you don’t wash your hands after this type of contact, you’ll likely expose yourself to the bug the next time you touch your face or mouth. People who think they might be sick should also wash their hands regularly to minimize the spread of any germs they may have.
So make a habit of washing your hands a few times throughout the day – bathroom break or not – and pay particular attention to washing up after you interact with someone who is visibly sick. Hand sanitizer works if you’re on the go, but we recommend using it only during the worst of cold and flu season. If it can work for elementary school kids, it can surely work for you!
And check out this great list of natural bar soaps to keep your hands from becoming dried out from over-washing during the cold and flu season.
Activate active winter activities
Winter weather often keeps people inside more and exercising less than in the summer months. This is true even in LA, where the rain and winds hamper our usual outdoor activities. But maintaining exercise and an active lifestyle during the winter months is an essential part of staying healthy. So invest in some warm sweatpants and get out there!
Exercise has been shown to boost immune function along with a range of other health benefits. So make sure you’re getting you’re getting your sweat on at least a few times a week at a moderate level, especially during the winter. An hour of good sweating should be plenty to help your body stop the common cold and flu. You don’t want to overdo it, as intense exertion can actually impair immune function temporarily – opening a window for you to be infected by a viral or bacterial illness.
There’s the first part of our advice on avoiding the winter bug blues. Be sure to read Part II for more great tips!
And as always: be happy, be healthy, and leave us a comment if you love these ideas or think we left something out!