Here's how to keep your immune system in tip-top condition this season.
1. Sanitize surfaces
Washing your hands is, of course, a first-line defence for cold and flu prevention, but don't forget about all those germ-carrying surfaces. Viruses can live on hard surfaces (light switches, keyboards, doorknobs and TV remotes; among others) for up to 24 hours. The most notoriously germy: your smartphone.
Tip: Cold and flu viruses can live on smartphones for up to 24 hours, so be sure to regularly wipe it down using a microfibre cloth.
2. Reduce refined foods
A diet high in refined foods such as white bread and other processed foods can weaken the immune system, making it less effective at responding to viral infections. Instead, choose foods that promote optimal immune function: leafy greens and brightly coloured vegetables, healthy proteins (such as fish and legumes) and good fats (think nuts, seeds and olive oil).
3. Embrace (good) bacteria
Having enough good bacteria in your gut is one key to better immune health. Like vitamin C, probiotics can help lessen the severity and duration of a cold. Probiotics in the digestive tract can help strengthen the gut's barrier function, a layer of cells that filters in essential nutrients and blocks the passage of harmful entities. Of the different strains, look for food products fortified with Lactobacilli or Bifidobacterium.
4. Get your vitamin C
Vitamin C is the age-old flu fighter and an important nutrient for keeping your immune system healthy. Should you get sick this winter, getting your recommended daily intake of vitamin C (75 milligrams for women 19 and older) has been proven to shorten the duration of the common cold in children and adults. But instead of reaching for an orange, why not have half a papaya or one sweet yellow or red pepper?
5. Catch Z's instead
On top of all the other health benefits of sleep, clocking seven to nine uninterrupted hours a night can contribute to better immunity overall. Not enough and poor-quality sleep can create changes in immune response and make you more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. When you slumber, your body releases cytokine: a family of protein molecules that help regulate immune responses to inflammation, infection and trauma. Not getting enough or poor-quality sleep could decrease the production of this essential protein and put you at risk for viral infection.