Despite our best efforts, sometimes we can’t prevent getting sick when the weather turns. Gear up for cold and flu season with these tips for a less unpleasant illness and a speedier recovery.
Days are getting shorter, nights chillier, and a few impatient neighbors have already started putting out Halloween decorations. There’s a red tint creeping around the edges of the leaves, and soon they’ll begin to fall—along with our immune systems.
Although there are a lucky few who never seem to get sick, with back-to-school germs and common cold viruses peaking in the winter and fall, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of us start sniffling. But even if we can’t always prevent ourselves from getting sick, we can make sure we’re prepared if an illness does hit. Here’s how to get ready for battle.
Prep Your Nest
It can be hard to get comfortable when you’re not feeling well, especially if you have to run to the store to pick up the essentials. Avoid the hassle of scrambling for your common cold comforts by making sure your space is already outfitted for the onslaught of pathogens.
Toilet paper, napkins, and paper towels can leave your nose red and raw. Place a few boxes of moisturized tissues around the house, and you’ll thank yourself later. With strep, bronchitis and even common colds slamming us with sore throats it’s also good to have a few cough suppressants and throat soothers like cough syrup and cough drops on hand.
Some of the most common flu symptoms include sore muscles and headaches, so it never hurts to make sure there’s a bottle of Advil or Tylenol in your medicine cabinet. As long as you’re in there, check your thermometer. If it’s digital, make sure the batteries are working. If you don’t have one, or don’t have one you love, our (biased but honest) advice is to order a Thermo.
Finally, be sure your couch or bed has plenty of cozy blankets and pillows to prop your head up and keep you warm when congestion or chills strike.
With chills, headaches, sore throats, and stuffy noses, you won’t want to get off the couch, let alone prepare a meal. With all of your cold symptoms in mind, here are a few things you might want to stock up on while you’re still healthy.
Grab a few boxes of soothing tea—like chamomile—the next time you’re at the store. If herbal tea isn’t your thing, pick up whatever you fancy, but make sure it’s decaf.
Caffeinated tea can dehydrate you, and although it might make you feel more alert, it won’t do you any favors in the long run.
Try replacing the sugar in your tea with honey to help soothe scratchy throats and suppress coughs.
When it comes to the swollen lymph nodes that can accompany colds, eating solid foods can feel like more trouble than it’s worth. Make sure you have a few spare cans of soup or broth in your pantry, or if you’d prefer something homemade, make a pot of chili and place individual portions in the freezer. Although spicy chili can exacerbate a sore throat, if congestion is your problem, it might help clear up your sinuses.
This food remedy might be a little potent for some, but chewing on a small piece of raw garlic can help you kill bacterial infections in the throat. If you’re not up for gnawing on raw garlic, Livestrong suggests brewing a garlic tea, which can be made by boiling garlic cloves and adding honey. If you can brave the bad breath, be sure to put a few fresh heads of garlic in the kitchen before strep strikes. At the very least it will keep the vampires away on Halloween!
If doing any cooking at all seems like too much work, be sure to put your favorite delivery or take-out restaurant on speed dial – or hook up your Grubhub account so you can order food in just a few clicks. That said, feed a cold and all, but be careful because our research has shown this is also the season when people gain weight.
Sometimes when you’re sick, all you want to do is curl up and go to sleep, while other times, colds can keep you awake, leaving you bored and fidgety for hours on end. When you’re home sick from school or work and looking for ways to cure the doldrums, you may want to make sure you have a stockpile of entertainment at your disposal.
If you don’t already have one, get a Netflix subscription… yesterday. You’ll get movies, commercial-free TV to binge on, and original series to keep you occupied through a thousand colds. Heck, if you’re in the middle of a series, you’ll be bummed when you recover. Or for a brain boost, the next time you’re passing your local bookstore, swing in and grab a few books. My personal totally-biased recommendations: Big Magic by Liz Gilbert, and a really funny book called Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. They might just boost your mood, and laughter is—after all—the best medicine.
Often it can be hard to sit still on the couch even with a good movie or book. If you’re a crafty person, start a knitting project. Not only will it keep your hands occupied, but it could land you with a nice scarf or hat to keep you cozy and ward off future colds once you’ve recovered. If you’re not-so-crafty, pick up an adult coloring book. It won’t require a huge amount of brainpower and it might help make the day a little less boring.
In the end, the best way to prepare for cold and flu season is to take preventative measures by fighting the germs before they have a chance to wear you down. Keep your living space clean by wiping down countertops, doorknobs and handles with disinfectants and be sure to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water (but skip the antibacterial soap.) Get enough sleep, and make sure to eat plenty of fruits and veggies.
And, of course, keep your phone charged so you can call and text friends and family to complain about how you feel. But remember to take a few cute selfies now, before sickness strikes — you’ll be grateful you did.