Boost your immunity and keep the sick bugs at bay with these health tips
Visit most any drugstore and you’ll figure out quickly it’s that time of year. Yep, the cold and flu remedy aisle is already packed.
So, other than avoiding the people in that part of the store, what can you do to avoid catching those nasty bugs?
Bernadette Burden, spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has an easy one for you: Get a flu shot.
“Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine,” she says. “Often, we start seeing the flu in the fall, and it takes around two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so get it now.”
Even those who faint at the sight of needles can get the vaccine. It’s as easy as inhaling a puff up the nose. Burden also notes that parents should talk with their pediatricians if their children are getting the vaccination for the first time: It may be a two-step process for some kids.
The shot won’t give you the flu—a common myth, she says, adding that few are allergic to the vaccine, and the side effects are minor.
“Especially for the very young and those over 25, or people with high risk of developing pneumonia, or with asthma, the vaccine can save lives,” Burden says.
But while the vaccine offers some protection, there’s no guarantee you won’t be susceptible, and it won’t stop you from catching a cold.
For that, Burden says the best prevention is to wash tyour hands often. Your second line of defense, if you’re in a crowded place, might be hand sanitizers, but Burden stresses that hand washing is much more effective.
Still, we can wash our hands as often and vigorously as Lady Macbeth, but face it: Sooner or later most of us will end up with the dreaded sore throat, body aches and congestion. The Mayo Clinic offers a list of surefire ways to feel better. Fluids, rest and over-the-counter remedies (never for children under 2) will make the patient feel better, though they might not shorten the duration. The jury is still out on zinc: It may help if you take it within 24 hours of your first symptoms.
Stay away from those antibiotics, which won’t do a thing to help cold or flu symptoms, and promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Your doctor will prescribe them only if they’re needed for a bacterial infection.
The AARP Bulletin suggests stocking up on few superfoods during the cold and flu season, ones that are rich in zinc, probiotics, vitamin E, vitamin C, or vitamin D, all of which help boost the immune system. Black-eyed peas, yogurt, almonds, carrots, tomatoes, tea and wild salmon are all recommended.
And guess what? Both the AARP and the Mayo Clinic agree on this: Grandma was right. Chicken soup really is good for what ails you. So, here’s a recipe for the broth you’ll need for your soup from The Culinary Institute of America’s The New Book of Soups (2009, Lebhar-Friedman). Add noodles, your favorite veggies and you’re on the road to good health.
Makes 2 quarts
- 4 pound stewing hen or chicken parts or meaty bones, such as backs and necks
- 3 quarts cold water
- 1 1⁄4 cups diced onion
- 1/3 cup diced carrot
- 1⁄2 cup diced celery
- 5 to 6 whole black peppercorns
- 3 to 4 parsley stems
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig, fresh thyme
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt, or as needed
- Place the chicken and water in a large pot. The water should cover the chicken by at least two inches; add more if necessary. Bring the water slowly to a boil over medium heat.
- As the water comes to a boil, skim away any foam that rises to the surface. Adjust the heat once a boil is reached so that a slow, lazy simmer is established. Cover partially and simmer for 2 hours, skimming as often as necessary.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients. Continue to simmer, skimming the surface as necessary, until the broth is fully flavored, about 1 hour.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and cool slightly. Dice or shred the meat and use to garnish the broth or save for another use; discard the skin and bones.
- Strain the broth through a colander or sieve into a large metal container. Discard the solids.
- If you are using the broth right away, skim off any fat on the surface. If you are not using the broth right away, cool it quickly by transferring it to a metal container (if it’s not in one already) and placing the container in a sink filled with ice cold water. Stir the broth as it cools, and then transfer it to storage containers. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.