5 tips to stay healthy during the cold and flu season

By Dan Landau

Colds and cold temperatures seem to go together, as the cold and flu season overlaps with winter’s cold weather. Even though it’s cold and flu season though, that doesn’t mean that you have to catch either. Follow these tips from the experts at FDU’s School of Pharmacy — Tae Eun Park, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, and Anastasia Rivkin, assistant dean for faculty and professor of pharmacy practice — and you’ll be well on your way to staying healthy this season! 
1. Get shot
Get a flu shot that is! Even though the vaccine isn’t a perfect shield, if you do get sick, it can shorten your illness and keep the symptoms milder.
Generally, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October, hits a peak in January or February, and can continue to occur as late as May. Even if the flu season has started already or you already had the flu, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still recommend the vaccination.
FYI: To clear up a common myth about the flu vaccine, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. The shot contains inactivated (dead) flu virus and the nasal spray contains weakened flu virus.
2. Keep those hands clean
Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching doorknobs, cafeteria dispensing spoons, using public transportation, or being in common areas. When you do wash your hands, use soap and warm water for at least 15-20 seconds (or the time it takes to hum “Happy Birthday” twice). When soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (make sure that it contains at least 60% alcohol).
3. Don’t touch your face
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth because germs spread that way.  
4. Cover your mouth
Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze—preferably with a tissue. Throw away the tissue after use and wash your hands. If a tissue is not available, use your elbow or upper arm, not your hands (even if you are about to shake hands with someone you don’t like!).
5. Practice healthy habits
Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and do your best to lower stress levels. Also remember, there is no conclusive evidence that any dietary supplement is useful for colds or the flu.
Taking zinc orally may help treat colds, but it can cause side effects and interact with other medications, while it through nasal inhalation has been linked to loss of smell and should not be used. Vitamin C does not prevent colds and it only slightly reduces the length and severity of them. Echinacea has not been proven to help prevent or treat colds. As for probiotics, evidence that they may help prevent colds is weak and little is known about their long-term safety. Current evidence does not support recommending any dietary supplements for preventing the flu.