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Don't let this year's tough cold and flu season keep you in hibernation.

Flickr user Jørgen Schyberg

You know the feeling you get this time of year—a sense of unease caused by being around that one person who is standing just a little too close who coughs without covering their mouth. It’s because it’s cold and flu season. And this year, it’s stronger than ever.

Currently 43 states are reporting high numbers of influenza cases, with H3N2 being the dominant strain this season. Even if you do follow the CDC’s recommendations and get vaccinated, this year’s flu vaccine will provide less protection against the more aggressive H3N2 than in previous years.

No one has time to be sick—those New Year’s resolutions aren’t going to make themselves happen—so here are seven tips to help boost your immune system during this cold and flu season.

1. Stay Warm 

It sounds very simple, but new scientific research suggests that the immune response to the rhinovirus—the common cold—is lower in colder temperatures. Turns out mom was right all along when she made you wear a coat before going outside.  If you don’t like the bulkiness of a heavy coat, dress in layers. It’s especially important to keep your nose warm, so wear a scarf.

2. Get Some Sleep

Your body is better able to fight off infections when you are getting an adequate amount of sleep. Make those seven to nine hours of rest each night a priority.

3. Exercise

Exercising for 30 minutes daily can increase endorphins that lower stress and help you sleep better, making you feel better overall.

4. Eat Clean

Now that you’ve had all the red velvet cake, chocolate, and other holiday treats your heart desired it’s time to get back to a more balanced diet. It’s important to eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Be sure to consume wine in moderation and lower your sodium and saturated fat intake.

5. Be Social

It’s natural to want to avoid those heavily populated areas where germs may be lurking, but it’s actually important to our overall health to stay connected with meaningful relationships. Isolation can cause social stress and stress in general is bad for your health. Just remember to wash your hands and practice good hygiene, especially around sick children.

6. Laugh More

Yes, laughing. Much like being social, laughing can boost your immune system by lowering your stress level.

7. Take Vitamin C

White blood cells use vitamin C to fight off infections. In the event that you can’t get those seven hours of sleep or you are slightly stressed out, a vitamin C supplement can come in handy. You can also ingest it naturally by eating foods containing high levels of vitamin C such as bell peppers, kale, and broccoli.

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Ashley Poag was a mater mea intern and an aspiring multimedia journalist.


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