Is there anything sadder than a 3-year old with the flu on Christmas Day?  Yes, it’s that time of the year! Even with flu shots, we have — and are — watching friends and family battle the flu through Christmas and into the New Year.  You probably are too. Beyond flu shots (which may or may not cover the particular strain that you could be exposed to), what can we do to further safeguard our health in the precarious winter months?  

In chatting about it with my sister, a seasoned newborn intensive care nurse at Primary Children’s Hospital In Salt Lake City, she shared what she does to avoid colds and the flu.  Needless to say, her personal health is a tip-top priority for the babies and staff at the hospital.  She is also the mother/mother-in-law of four medical doctors, so she knows what she’s talking about and stays amazingly healthy year-round. I always listen to her advice!  

She says: “The germs and virus that cause the flu enter through the nose, right in the upper tip of the outside edge of the nostrils.  And they stay there to multiply.  If you’ll just keep that area clean and spray it with the saline spray from Sam’s Club, you’ll be amazed at how you’ll avoid the flu!”

She told us about this a year ago and I think she’s right. We went straight to Sam’s Club and have our sprays sitting by our toothbrushes and (knock-on-wood!!!) have been cold-free for well over a year.  But we still believe in flu shots! And consistently drink our herbal detox that is so popular here at Meridian (You can download a PDF of the flu prevention tips here and get a $2 off coupon if you have not yet tried this product.)

This trick is easy! Nasal sprays are sterile, take seconds to use and have been shown to be safe and effective for preventing and treating cold and flu symptoms for all ages. There are smaller versions for kids. Using it three or more times a day is a wonderful and safe preventive measure for everyone in the family.

She sent me a picture of what she buys at Sam’s Club, which sent me not only shopping, but looking for more information on the Internet.  I found an article by Dr. Oz explaining in detail why my sister is right on the money with this tip.

Dr. Oz says: Airborne pathogens enter through your nose and mouth and begin to encroach on your body’s protective barriers. As they’re absorbed, they can spark an immune reaction and cause a cold or flu. The chances of getting sick are increased if your nasal passages are dry, a common occurrence in cold weather.  

Without any lubrication, the nose can’t flush out bacteria, which results in a safe haven for germs. That’s why the first item in Dr. Oz’s Rescue Pack is saline nasal spray. This simple remedy helps to flush out mucus and bacteria. Adding moisture to the nasal passages also helps to combat stuffiness, congestion and further infection. Look for a spray that has purified water and sodium chloride to get the purest, most effective spray.”  (The link to his full article is at the bottom of this article.)

Saline spray is easily available at drugstores or you can make your own and apply with a Q-tip swab to the inside of the entire nostril and outer edges:

1. Add 1 cup (250 mL) distilled water to a clean container. If you use tap water, boil it first to sterilize it, and then let it cool until it is lukewarm.

2.  Add ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) salt to the water.

3.  Add ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) baking soda.

After reading Dr. Oz’s article, I did some more research to put together this comprehensive list of 22 additional flu prevention tips, many of them from health pros.  I hope they’ll be helpful!  

While some may seem easy and nothing more than good old common sense, it’s important to remember that the definition of wisdom is “common sense to an uncommon degree.”  We all need all the wisdom we can get for our health during the winter months when germs and sick days seem to multiply as rapidly as our kids’ collections of stuffed animals.  So here we go!

1.  Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.  It is not rude to say to someone who is clearly not feeling well, “Please don’t take this personally, but I just can’t sit next to you today.”

2. Stay home when you are sick.
If at all possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You need the time at home and this will help prevent spreading your illness to others.  If you have a hard time making your needs a priority, it’s time to keep the big picture of other’s needs first. Think of staying home/indoors as a “service” to those around you rather than “getting important things done.”

3. Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands after using it and throw it away!  
It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. 

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.  (i think we’re all guilty of not being as conscious about this as we should.

6.  Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.

7.  Get enough protein.  
“Research shows that diets that are too low in protein can deplete the immune system.  Make sure to get protein rich foods throughout the day.”  Douglas Kalman, PhD, RD, director of nutrition and applied clinical trials at Miami Research Associates.

8. Put On Your Gym Smarts
“Gyms are crawling with sweaty towels, dirty sneakers and germy grossness.  Instead of sitting directly on a mat or bench, I’ll place a clean towel on it first. Any equipment that I have to touch – like rfree weights or handlebars, I’ll clean first with antibacterial wipes.” (Franci Cohen, group exercise instructor and owner of Fuel Fitness, Brooklyn New York.)

9.  Mr. Clean To The Rescue!
Sanitize your office space: “I clean everything that gets touched by lots of people – microwaves, fax-machine keys, doorknobs, elevator buttons, the arm rests on chairs, etc. with a good disinfectant at least once a week, even if it looks clean.  It’s just basic hygiene.  Rhinoviruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours!”  (Philip Tierno, PhD, author of The Secret Life of Germs)

10.  Start With Zinc 
“If I get a scratchy throat and think I might be getting a cold, I pop “Cold-Eeze lozenges with zinc for a few days. They relieve symptoms and can get you better faster.”

11.  Hold Your Breath, Then Breathe Out!
“When I’m walking past another person and he is sneezing or coughing, I gently and slowly breathe out until I’m beyond the 6-10 foot zone around him. This keeps me from inhaling the air he just contaminated.

12.  Use Your Own Pen.
“With an immune-compromised child at home (my son got a bone-marrow transplant when he was just a year old for an unusual illness)  I’ve become used to bringing my own pen to the bank, grocery store, doctor’s office, etc.  I even touch the ATM with it. That way, I avoid picking up germs I might spread to my child … and myself!” 

13.  Pamper Your Nose.
“I do a daily nasal rinse with a bulb syringe to flush out viruses and help clear secretions. You can buy nasal saline irrigation at the drugstore – I like NeilMed Sinus Rinse – or make yourown: Mix 3 teasponsse iodid-free salt and 1 tsp. baking soda.  Add 1 tsp. of this to 1 cup of distilled or cooled boiled water.  (Jeffrey Demain MD Director of the Alergy Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska)

14.  Start Juicing.
“As a paramedic, I never know what germs I’ll be encountering.  So I drink water constantly to flush toxins out through the lymph system. During cold and flu season, my EMT partner and I start our day by making and drinking juice.  We use kale, broccoli, apple, arugula, parsley, cucumber, carrots, swiss chard, lemon and mint.  That way if I don’t get the recommended servings of whole fruits and veggies every day (who does? Juicing allows me to drink that amount in a concentrated form.”  (Kristina Economou, a paramedic in Montrerey, CA)

15.  Hand Railings and Drinking Fountains
“I never use water fountains or the railings on stairs. They’ve got the prints of hundreds of germy hands (and mouths!) and the don’t get sanitized as often as other surfaces, like sinks.  And I always use my own water bottle, thank you very much.”  (Cheryl Lassiter, a kindergarten teacher in Atlanta)

16.  Embrace Essential Oils
“I’ll use a few drops of lavender essential oil as a natural hand sanitizer on the go.” (Frank Lipman, MD, integrative-medicine practitioner and founder and director of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center in New York City

17.  Release Bad Energy
“My job is to keep patients calm in the ER, so I treat them with Jin Shin Jyutsu, a form of Japanese light-touch energy therapy.  The practice unlocks blocked energy to help the body fight infection.  I do it myself every morning – I put my right hand on top of my head and my left hand in between my eyebrows and I take relaxed breaths for five minutes.”  (Julia Millspaugh, RN,. Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, NJ)

18.  Massage Therapy.
“I receive massages once a month to increase my circulation, which boosts immunity by nourishing cells with more oxygen and blood.  It also makes me relaxed and less stressed, and when you’re less stressed, you’re less likely to be a germ magnet.”  (Christine Nelson, a massage therapist in Las Cruces, NM

19. Sweat Therapy.
“I run whenever and whenever I possibly can.  When I travel, I try to stay in a hotel that has a dry sauna and use it every day. Sweating makes me feel like I’m getting all the toxins and germs out.”  (Mike Martinez, a city-council member in Austin, TX)

20.  Call It A Day – Get Enough Rest!
My strategy is to double down on trying to get enough sleep, even if it just a power nap on a plane.  Research shows that our bodies need 7-8 hours of sleep in order to stimulate an immune response from our ‘natural killer cells,’ which attack viruses.  Sleep is my most reliable defense against infection.”  (David Katz, MD, founder of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and author of “Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well”)

21.  Dry Your Hands After Washing
“I wash my hands often and pat them fully dry so they don’t get flaky, which can allow germs in.  Then I moisturize.” (Diane Berson, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital)

22.  Cell Phones. 
“As a doctor, I need to keep my cell phone with me at all times.  During the day, I might place it on a counter or use it in between opening doors, pushing elevator buttons, or shaking hands with patients or colleagures. Cleaning my phone with a sanitizing wipe regularly cuts back on the germs that get near my face and mouth.   (Dr. Broumand)

There you have it! I think there’s something for everyone to put into use immediately and to pass along to dear ones.  Common sense, nasal spray … and our herbal detox for a cherry on top. We can sleep well knowing we’ve done our part to stay healthy and can honorably pray for health and safety each day. 

If you’d like to read the rest of Dr. Oz’s article, CLICK HERE or paste in:

You can order our herbal detox HERE and download a PDF of the 22 tips!

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been a columnist for Meridian Magazine for 11 years,  providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success and happy living both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999.  She has presented for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of a growing number of darling little ones. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox. CLICK HERE