Cold and flu season is always a time when you want to do everything you can to stay healthy and avoid getting sick. It's especially vital this year, though, during the Covid-19 pandemic. So, physician Dr. Ian Smith is sharing his essential tips for how to stay healthy this flu season — here are five steps you can take as the weather gets colder.
1. Get at least 5-10 minutes of sunlight per day
"You need some sunlight during the dreary late fall and winter months, because the sun will activate the vitamin D in your skin and that will help you remain sufficient in your vitamin D supply," Dr. Ian says. "So get some sunlight—not too much, because you don't want to increase your risk of skin cancer and melanoma—but 5-10 minutes outside on a nice day getting some sun, there's nothing wrong with that."
2. Get plenty of exercise
"As cold and flu season approach, people tend to be indoors more because it's winter," Dr. Ian points out. That typically means we're doing less cardio. Dr. Ian likes to work on his lean muscle mass and do resistance training, because he says "it actually burns more calories."
3. Take naps
"Taking a nap during the day is so critical. It allows your immune system to restore, to reset. It's so good to get yourself reenergized, not just physically but also mentally," Dr. Ian says.
Vitamin C and vitamin D are great for boosting your immune system, the doc says.
Foods high in vitamin C: Citrus foods are great sources of vitamin C. "Oranges are wonderful," Dr. Ian says, but "ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than oranges. Most people don't know that." Broccoli, tomatoes and kale are also great foods to add to your diet that are high in vitamin C. "Tomatoes also contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant," Dr. Ian adds.
Foods high in vitamin D: Mushrooms are full of vitamin D, as well as tuna (canned or fresh) and eggs, according to the doc. "You have to eat the egg yolk, because that is where most of the vitamin D is located," Dr. Ian says.
"Now more than ever we are heading into what could be a twin-demic—that is the flu epidemic and the current pandemic. You want to get your flu shot," Dr. Ian stresses. "The Covid-19 virus affects your respiratory tree, [and the] flu affects the same area of your body. And you can imagine if you have one and the other, it's a double whammy."
As a reminder, "a cold is a virus that will go away. It typically affects your nose, your upper respiratory system. It will go away without any treatment, though we can take some things to somewhat shorten the severity of the symptoms," Dr. Ian says.
"The flu is a much different ball game. The flu can give you pneumonia, it can give you muscle aches, it can have a really full body effect. It kills up to 60,000 people each year, so it's not something to take lightly. We definitely want you to get that flu shot."