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It’s no wonder that this time of year is not-so-lovingly called ‘flu season.’ As soon as the weather changes, the flu and other viruses, like the common cold and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), start to spread like wildfire.
But why do we get so sick so frequently this time of year? Is there anything we can do to protect ourselves and our families? And what can we do to minimize the symptoms if we become infected?
Today, we’re diving into all these questions, the best ways to guard yourself against illness, and our favorite remedies for any virus going around this season, so keep reading!
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Where Does Flu Season Come From?
There are multiple reasons sickness skyrockets this time of year, including our behaviors, the behaviors of those around us, and environmental factors.
Those of us with children know that back-to-school season almost inevitably leads to sickness. This is one of the more obvious causes of illness this time of year because, in addition to being in close quarters with one another, kids aren’t always diligent about practicing healthy habits. So, it’s always worth revisiting a conversation about handwashing and how to prevent the spread of germs!
Each new season introduces new virus variants (especially the flu virus). This means that even if you’ve experienced an illness before, your immune system may not recognize or respond to this version of the sickness. The flu, in particular, can be highly contagious.
Holiday travel is another factor relevant to high rates of illness. Travel introduces an increased risk of disease because of how easily viruses can spread between groups of people in close contact and from different regions. Socializing with people from different areas can result in exposure to multiple different viral strains. (So make sure to keep your favorite hand sanitizer with you!) Of course, traveling also involves increased stress, reduced sleep, and a disruption to our everyday routines, all of which can weaken the immune system. (Learn more here on how to stay healthy while traveling)
Lastly, there is speculation that cold, dry weather provides a less supportive environment for immune function while providing stability for viruses, setting the stage for contagion.
So, what can we do about it?
Heading Off the Flu Virus
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to strengthen our resilience, prevent infection, or at least minimize the effects of illness once it strikes.
Between returning to school and gearing up for the holidays, this time of year can be busy and overwhelming. This reality makes it more essential than ever to prioritize rest and minimize stress! A full calendar can cause us to neglect proper self-care, and on top of that, stress and exhaustion take a significant toll on the body. We often forget that mental and emotional factors can and do produce physical effects, so prioritize slowing down and taking it easy!
We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” and in many ways, it’s true! How our bodies perform is directly dependent upon what we use for fuel. If we rely on sugary drinks and fast food to get through the day, we’ll feel sluggish and experience unpleasant physical symptoms (like illness). If we stay hydrated and stick to a balanced diet, the quality of our fuel will shine through in how we feel! So, especially this time of year, focus on hydrating and consuming fruits, vegetables, and whole foods. Your body will thank you!
What we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in our bodies. Remember, our skin absorbs most of what we put on it, so if a product contains ingredients you wouldn’t feel safe consuming, you may want to rethink putting it on your skin. Sadly, conventional personal care products contain countless carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and neurotoxins that only improve the appearance, scent, or lifespan of the product, not the quality of the formula itself. These ingredients weaken and undermine your immune system at best and permanently harm your health at worst. So don’t take the risk! Choose clean, natural products that make you look and feel your best, all while strengthening and supporting your health!
Pro Tip: Your personal care products aren’t the only products in your home that matter! Most cleaning products contain harsh cleaning agents that can contribute to respiratory illness and immunosuppression. Swap out your store-bought cleaning products for gentle, natural cleaning formulas that disinfect and keep you safe without risking your health!
Treating Flu Symptoms
Sometimes, you do everything right, and someone still comes home with a stuffy nose or sore throat. This is especially likely to happen if you have children who are involved in school, sports, or other hobbies. So, now it’s time to switch to treatment mode.
(Note: Don’t think all your precautions were for nothing if someone still gets sick! All your efforts will likely make cold and flu symptoms less severe and/or shorter-lived than they would have been otherwise.)
Fortunately, many of the preventative methods double as treatments. Even if you or a family member are already sick, it’s just as important - if not more so - to double up on sleep, hydration, and a healthy diet. The age-old wisdom is that no matter the symptom - whether it’s sneezing or body aches - rest is critical.
In addition to regularly consuming nutrient-dense foods, nature provides us with many ‘superfoods’ that have been used to treat illness for hundreds of years. The below foods are proven to soothe the body, calm inflammation, fight infection, and support the immune system. They may even be more effective than over-the-counter medications!
- Bone broth
- Chicken soup
There are also plenty of homemade remedies that can be just as beneficial as pharmaceutical treatments but without the added sugars, chemicals, and side effects. We’ve included three of our favorite home remedy recipes to make those sick days more bearable (and hopefully fewer!):
- Elderberry Cough Syrup: For coughs, colds, and flu
- Garlic Olive Oil: A topical treatment for ear infections
- Turmeric Bombs: To treat inflammation and combat free radicals
Whether you have superhuman resilience or you catch everything that goes around, building a strong immune system is a constant work in progress. Wellness is something we have to prioritize all year round, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming! When in doubt, go back to the basics. A clean diet, clean products, and clean remedies will never fail you!