Although flu season peaks in January to February in the United States, it starts from as early as October. Therefore the most recent flu vaccines will be available in September. The seasonal flu is not a huge cause for concern. It affects large numbers of the population, most commonly in the flu season, and the virus is such that it rarely ever leads to death. But in the wake of new strains of the influenza virus and mutations that have allowed it to cross species, everybody is scrambling to take the vaccine or stock up on antivirals.
There is now more of public concern about flu season than there has been in the decades prior to the 2009 ‘swine flu‘ H1N1 outbreak. And rightfully so. The flu is much less predictable than it was in the past and the outcome can be much more deadly than we are accustomed to in modern history. But media hype often fuels unfounded fears. The fact is that only a small minority of those infected will face the worst outcomes. Nevertheless it is always advisable to be cautious and do whatever you can to minimize the impact of the flu, especially if you are in the high risk group.
Vaccines are one of the ways to prevent the flu or at least minimize the severity of the infection. Antivirals may be effective in treating the flu. But all too often, the most important defense is forgotten – your own immune system. Everyday you face tens of thousands of microbes, if not more, and your immune system prevents an infection from arising. But as with any part of the body, the protective ability of the immune system is entirely dependent on how healthy it is.
Here are some tips to boost your immune system to ensure that it is working at its peak to protect you against infections like the flu. These ways to beat the flu depends on a healthy immune system. It is not as effective if you suffer with any conditions known to cause immune deficiency, like HIV/AIDS or long term uncontrolled diabetes mellitus.
Foods That Boost Immunity
Time and again there are foods that are revealed as being immune boosters. But before you rush out to stock up on these foods, it is important to realize that no single food item is the miracle immune booster that popular media sometimes claims. Your immune health is directly linked to your overall health and a healthy diet is the cornerstone of healthy living.
It requires a balanced intake of carbohydrates, fats and proteins from a range of sources such as meat and meat products, vegetables, grains, fruit and dairy. If there is a single group of foods that you could eat more of for health reasons then it would undoubtedly be fresh fruits and vegetables. It is often lacking in the modern diet and contains a host of phytochemicals (naturally occurring compounds in plants) that have health benefits.
Avoid A Sedentary Lifestyle
Physical activity is known to be an important component in a healthy lifestyle. But not every person is keen on exercising regularly every day. Although there is little else to match the benefit of at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, you can still get some benefit of being physically active through simple ways in everyday life.
Wake up to change the TV channel rather than clicking your remote. Take the stairs instead of the elevator if its just a few flights up. Try walking to your local corner store rather than driving to it. There is no need to join a gym or buy a treadmill in order to capitalize on the health benefits of being active. But all physical activities require consistency.
Eat And Take Supplements On Time
Just as important as a balanced diet is eating on time. The stresses and strains of a busy life often means that eating patterns are erratic. You may miss one meal and eat a large than normal meal later in the day. You may feel that an energy bar or small snack is sufficient to tide you over till you have time to eat or feel hungry.
But inconsistency in nutritional intake does not help in keeping the body fueled and healthy. Fewer large meals can also contribute to weight gain which is known to reduce your ability to resist infections. It is important to eat your main meals at around the same time everyday. Just as important is taking vitamin and mineral supplements consistently.
Rest, Relax And Sleep Sufficiently
Stress management and adequate sleep are crucial for maintaining your health. While rest and relaxation should be a daily ritual every evening, a short vacation every now and then can also help. Being overworked and not giving enough time to rest and relaxation does not allow your body to recuperate and strains your entire system.
Adequate sleep is equally important. You should get about 8 hours every night although adults may manage well with 6 to 7 hours. Try not to sleep for more than 10 hours at a time. Sleep is important on a daily basis. You cannot manage on insufficient sleep throughout the working week only to catch up on the weekend. Sleeping problems are common these days. Here are some tips to fall asleep.
Adopt A Healthier Mental Attitude
The link between the mind and body is being more closely studied in recent years. The mind is known to be able to lower your immune defenses, hamper your ability to recover from illness and even contribute to the development of diseases. While the stresses and strains of modern life may be unavoidable, adopting a healthier mental attitude can help.
Try to be positive about your life, work and relationships. Undoubtedly there will be periods of disharmony and conflict along the way. But with the right mental attitude, these stresses and strains are less likely to have a significant impact on your health. If you are experiencing mental health problems then it is important to see a professional and get the appropriate treatment.
Quit Smoking And Control Alcohol Use
Tobacco smokers tend to have weaker immune defenses than non-smokers, particularly when it comes to respiratory tract and related infections. Passive smokers are just as much at risk – living with a smoker means that you are more likely to contract the flu even if you are a non-smoker yourself. Children in particularly are more prone to the flu and respiratory tract infections if there is a smoker in the house.
While the body may be able to tolerate small quantities of alcohol, too much can have a host of effects on many organs and system. The immune system is also affected by alcohol misuse. It is important to keep alcohol consumption within limits recommended by health authorities – not more than 2 units daily for men and 1 unit a day for women. Binge drinking should be avoided.
Get Enough Sunlight Daily
Sunlight is known to have a positive effect on your mood, which in turn can have an impact on your immunity. It is known that sunlight is important for regulating the biological clock, influences serotonin levels and melatonin which plays a role in the sleep cycle. People who live in areas with little sunlight are prone to suffer with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression.
But apart from these effects on your mental health and subsequent effect on your immunity, sunlight also determines your vitamin D levels. Sunlight striking the skin can mediate the production of vitamin D. And a lack of sunlight will lead to a deficiency of vitamin D. As with many other micronutrients, vitamin D is important for overall health. Therefore sunlight exposure, through the presence of sufficient vitamin D, may help keep your immune system at its peak.