Back to school season is quickly approaching, and we bet we can guess what’s on your mind: the thrill of new school supplies, new shoes, and seeing good friends for the first time in months. As weeks of popsicles by the poolside fade to sweater-clad, blustery days, the ever-present threat of the flu and common cold lingers in the background. But don’t worry—we’ve got the guide to keep you staying healthy all year round.
1. Get enough rest. This one is kind of a given, but fatigue really does increase your susceptibility to illness. In fact, we should all try to get enough sleep even if we’re not concerned about getting sick - seven to nine hours a night is ideal for optimal health.
2. Drink lots of fluids. Another given, but so important. Stay hydrated during back to school season with green tea - to reduce free radicals - Emergen-C - my mom swears by this Vitamin C booster - and good old fashioned H20. If you really want to give your immune system a boost, cut out the sugary stuff; even a small amount of soda can reduce your white blood cells’ ability to fight bacteria.
3. Wash your hands before you eat and right away when you get home. This might seem a bit excessive, but it’s always a good idea to get rid of any germs you may have picked up during the day, especially if you’ll be touching food. Thanks to this rule being lovingly enforced when I was a kid (looking at you, Mom), it has become second nature to me. But I think it’s a good habit to pick up regardless of whether or not it’s flu season, so consider telling little ones to do the same thing!
4. Keep a supply of antibacterial wipes If you regularly wipe down germy surfaces, it will greatly decrease your chances of catching anything—think kitchen and bathroom counters, your desk, your bedside table, as well as your phone screen and computer keyboard. Side note: this post is definitely confirming my suspicions that I am indeed turning into my mother.
5. Don’t share towels, glasses, or utensils. Sharing is caring, right? WRONG. Though it might be tempting to have a sip from someone’s water bottle or let them spare you a bite of their food, it’s better for you and those around you to refrain from it.
6. Eat ALL the fruits and veggies. Nutritionally dense foods like leafy greens and bright berries are loaded with antioxidants that help you stay healthy. Looking for more ways to incorporate produce into your diet? Try having a small side salad in addition to your normal dinner, or a yogurt, granola, and fruit parfait for an easy breakfast or late-night treat.
7. Stress less; laugh more. While stress hormones can suppress the immune system, sharing a hearty chuckle with friends and/or loved ones decreases number of stress hormones in the body, and increases a type of white blood cell that fights infection! Laughing isn’t the only way to decrease your likelihood of getting sick—mediating, deep breathing, or even listening to music can serve the same purpose.
8. Exercise. Make an effort to move for at least 30 minutes a day. It stimulates the lymphatic system, increases oxygenation, and ups the number of leukocytes (immune system cells that fight infection) in the body!
9. This one you’ve definitely heard before: Install a humidifier. I have personally never owned a humidifier, but I have friends and family who swear by them. If your home is especially dry, you might want to consider it—flu and cold viruses thrive in low humidity!
10. Drink red wine. Over the past couple of decades, medical researchers have concluded that a glass of red wine at the end of the day can actually be good for you. In addition to its cancer-fighting properties, red wine lowers your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack. You - or the kids - can also reap a lot of the same benefits from drinking dark grape juice!