It’s October and for those in the United States, it signals the very beginning of cold and flu season. Working in schools puts us at greater risk of infection. Here are some tips for staying healthy. The general principles are to build up your immune system and avoid germs.

  1. Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands. There seems to be consensus on this being the most important factor in staying away from viral and bacterial infections.
  2. Keep hands away from the face. Try not to rub your eyes, bite a lose hang nail, etc. Also, think twice about grabbing communal finger foods in the faculty lounge. Be sure to wash hands before eating things with your hands like a sandwich, chips, carrots, etc.
  3. Eat foods to boost your immune system. Speaking of foods — lots of fruits and veggies. They have vitamins that build up your response in case you are exposed. Green tea is also supposed to help. Lots of medical professionals seem to advocate eating protein with every meal and snack to lessen a spike in insulin that can occur even with fruit and many veggies. So, an apple with peanut butter, for example. Carrots with hummus.
  4. Avoid foods that weaken your immune system. Donuts, chips, cookies, sodas — they all cause a spike in insulin and an inflammatory response in our bodies, making it harder to fight infection.
  5. Exercise to boost your immune system. There are studies that even 5 – 7 minutes a day can make a difference. Jumping jacks, running in place, squats, we can find five minutes!
  6. Laugh, spend time with friends. Laughter and spending time with friends boosts immunity. How great it that?
  7. Get plenty of sleep. This is a hard one for most people. But it’s crucial for making sure our immune system is running at optimum power.
  8. Breathe. Some studies have shown that even five deep breaths in a row can send oxygen to your brain, reduce stress, boost your mood and therefore your immune response. So does practicing meditation and mindfulness.
  9. Wash hand towels, kitchen rags, sheets and pillows often in hot water. This one will reduce allergens and pollutants in our homes — and germs, too if family members or guests are sick and dry their hands on your towels.
  10. If needed, add moisture to the air. If our airways are dry, germs can more easily make themselves at home and make us sick. Use a humidifier in your room at night.

I’m going to try to focus on a few of these at a time. Laughing and spending time with friends needs priority in my life. Which will you choose?