Welcome to the heart of winter. There’s so much to love this season, like cozy afternoons in front of a fireplace, relaxed wine evenings with a good book, and snow many outdoor winter activities such as ice skating and snowshoeing. Cue the lightning and turn off the music, as the cold white season is also associated with colds, flu, stomach bugs, and more. We suggest some small habits to protect your immunity throughout the winter. So don’t despair! Grab a cup of hot chocolate and some marshmallows while learning some preventative tips.
This winter, in particular, COVID-19, influenza and RSV are circulating.
We spoke with Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALMthe Director of Medical Content and Education at Ro, a Certified Nutrition Coach, a Certified Personal Trainer, and a member of our medical expert board to learn several healthy practices that will totally help you boost your immunity and fight the common winter-related illnesses.
Dr. Bohl points out: “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we all often think about ways to avoid getting sick. And this winter, in particular, there seem to be three things going on: COVID-19, the flu, and RSV, which makes it even more important to do what you can to stay healthy. Sounds like a big plan to us!
You may be curious why winter seems to bring disease and ruin your plans. First, some viruses like the common cold (rhinovirus) grow and spread more easily in cold, dry weather. Additionally, your vitamin D intake is depleted during the winter months due to less sunlight.
Dr. Bohl explains: “We spend more time indoors with air circulating and we have decreased blood flow to certain parts of the body, which can contribute to us getting sick more frequently.” There are several preventative measures you can take to protect your immunity and avoid disease, so let’s get started!
1. Practice the same basic healthy habits you do all year round.
This first advice is very basic but so important. Be sure to maintain healthy habits at all times, including eating well and maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, keeping your alcohol intake to a very modest level, not smoking, making sure catch solid Z’s every night and do everything to keep your stress levels at bay.
“These are components of an overall healthy lifestyle that will not only boost your immunity during the winter, but also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease,” Dr. Bohl tells us.
2. Follow excellent hygiene throughout the day to boost your immunity.
The second tip to protect your immunity is to follow strict hygiene throughout the day. “We know many of them from the pandemic: wash your hands often (and sanitize when soap and water aren’t available), avoid touching your face with your hands, consider wearing a face mask in crowded areas, stay away from people who are sick or who have recently been exposed to someone else who is sick, and stay up to date with your vaccinations (including your annual flu shot and your COVID-19 reminder),” Dr. Bohl shares.
3. Add supplements to your self-care routine this season.
Next on the list includes adding supplements to your self-care routine this season. “Research shows that taking echinacea can help prevent colds,” advises Dr. Bohl, adding that “vitamin D supplements may also be beneficial in people who are vitamin D deficient.” He also suggests considering vitamin C supplements as well. Although its effect on colds isn’t fully proven, it’s not harmful and very affordable.
4. Know what you can do to reduce the duration and severity of your illness.
If you currently have a cold or the flu, you may be able to skip a few steps to help reduce your illness in time and in severity. By taking zinc supplements, for example, you can shorten your cold. It is necessary to take them within 24 hours of the onset of your illness. If you have flu-like symptoms, Tamiflu is very helpful if taken within 48 hours of when your illness started. For COVID-19, Paxlovid is helpful if you take it within five days of when symptoms start to appear.
While it’s always wise to contact your healthcare professional to find out which course is right for you, it’s helpful to know what’s available to help you.
Alexa is the associate editor of Eat This, Not That!’s Mind + Body, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling stories about fitness, wellness and self-care to readers. Learn more about Alexa