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How to: Avoid Getting Sick This Winter

by Candice Walsh Nov 1, 2010

For us in the northern hemisphere, winter comes on strong. Gone are the days of barbecues on the back patio, sunbathing at the beach, and frolicking through the streets in minimal clothing. Here on the east coast of Canada, the winter season begins around October.

Mother Nature starts throwing out influenza viruses and colds with enough force to bring down even the biggest health nut. Turns out all these illnesses aren’t actually caused by the cold weather, but because people spend more time interacting with each other indoors where germs run amok.

Which brings us to our first tip to avoid getting sick:

1. Become a hermit

Friendship is overrated anyway. Buy some DVDs, stock up on good literature, maybe get a kitten, and spend the cold months in your room until your skin starts turning some shade of grey. You really can’t go wrong.

2. Do the regular boring stuff
You may also try some fresh garlic, which wards off sickness AND vampires.

You know, the things your mother always told you to do, like washing your hands, drinking eight glasses of water a day, and getting a full night’s sleep each night.

3. Stop supplementing your food

Pumping yourself full of vitamin C tablets does not boost your immune system; it merely helps your system along. A balanced diet with lots of fruits and veggies is the way to go.

4. Just the same, try some elderberry extract

These supplements have antiviral properties, so if you’re around a sick person, take some extract to ward off the illness. If you’re already sick, elderberry extract will shorten the illness and alleviate the symptoms. You may also try some fresh garlic, which wards off sickness AND vampires. Double whammy.

5. Yoga your heart out

In addition to stretching, strengthening and toning your muscles, yoga helps boost your immune system and gives your internal organs some therapeutic treatment, thus warding off sickness. Yoga also provides stress release. Wai Lana suggest practicing the Lion pose a few times a day when you feel a cold coming on because it brings fresh blood to your throat and scares away germs.

6. Exercise

Regular exercise a few times per week will help prevent both stress and germs. Find something you enjoy doing – swimming, skiing, pole dancing – and just do it.

7. Have a cup of tea

Ginger tea in particular is a great home flu prevention method.

8. Gargle with salt water

My mother always made me do this when I started feeling sick. The salt kills germs and brings up any mucus in your throat. The whole process is incredibly sexy, so make sure your partner is nearby.

9. St. John’s wort

The ancient Greeks valued this herb for its medicinal properties. The plant has been used for centuries to treat depression and mental disorders, so it may be just what you need to take care of the stressful stuff and avoid illness.

The more brandy you add, the better you’ll feel.
10. Add some alcohol to your tea

Once again, the Greeks know how to do it right with their chamomile tea spiked with honey and brandy. Add a teaspoon of loose chamomile tea to boiling water, plus a cinnamon stick, three cloves and some lemon peel. Let it steep, then add a teaspoon of honey and some Metaxa (Greek brandy). The more brandy you add, the better you’ll feel.

11. Get some Chinese dietary therapy

This is key to staying healthy, says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner. Chinese dietary therapy is based on the idea that one’s internal environment must balance with the external environment – so we should eat foods at the time of year they are harvested, eat warm foods in the fall and the winter, and so on.

In the winter, the body needs soups, stews, root vegetables, baked apples and other cooked foods to retain moisture and boost digestive energy. Chinese medicine also states that bone marrow is the root of blood and yin, so perhaps you could add some free range bones to your soup. Yummy, right?

12. Try a Chinese egg rub

Here’s the deal: hard-boil three eggs, and peel off the shell immediately. Wrap one in a cotton towel or handkerchief and rub it all over your head, face, neck and back. When the egg has cooled, replace it with a new warm one. Then don’t shower for 24 hours.

The doctors at Chicago’s Center for Integrative Medicine can’t seem to find any positive results from this practice – but hey, it must be worth a shot. At least smelling like hot eggs will keep other people away and prevent the risk of further contamination.

13. Meditate

Incorporating meditation into your daily routine decreases stress, helps fight stress-related illnesses and other diseases, and even serves as a sleep aid. As little as 12 minutes a day can make a big difference.

14. Buy an air purifier

AtmosAir Solutions suggests a bi-polar air purifier device that eliminates mould, dust and odours while controlling bacteria and viruses. This one goes hand in hand with meditation.

15. Make your home smell nice with aromatherapy

Plants and oils help take care of body, mind and spirit, and have done for over 5000 years, starting with the Egyptians. In ancient times, people realized burning stems and twigs of plants produced smells which caused relaxation or happiness, sometimes even giving a person more energy.

16. Try some Brazil nuts

They’re not only a rich source of protein, but are also high in selenium, which increases production of proteins called cytokines that are important for the immune system. Have a 1 oz serving a few times per week.

17. Gargle some sage

Matador Life intern Anne Merritt says try steeping sage leaves in hot water, let it cool to room temperature, and then gargle the mixture. Sage can soothe sore throats, and might help guard against infection.

18. Avoid the chicken soup

Canned or instant chicken soups contain so much salt they do nothing but worsen headaches and aggravate sore throats. This doesn’t bode well for people who are dehydrated to begin with. Instead, try a homemade broth or hot fruit juice mixed with honey.

19. Travel with Neosporin

Stefan Pinto suggests rubbing some Neosporin underneath your nose when travelling on planes, to block out germs from dirty cabin air. This will also convince the person sitting next to you that you’re insane.

20. Keep your mucus membranes warm

Keep your tootsies warm with thick socks, avoid cold floors, and layer warm sweaters. Your respiratory tract becomes practically impenetrable to germs once your mucus membranes are warm. By which I mean, stay nice and toasty and you’ll be fine!


Do you have any tips for not getting sick during the winter? Share your thoughts below.

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