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Opinion

Student Health: Protecting yourself from cold and flu season

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November 9, 2016

The October 2016 issue of Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter lists 10 easy steps to protect yourself against colds and the flu.

1. Get vaccinated

If you haven’t already done so, please consider getting vaccinated. It is not too late! Your body should build antibodies within 10-14 days after receiving the vaccine. Vibrant Health Clinic in River Falls has a supply of the vaccines and Student Health Services will be billed if students do not have means to pay for the immunization. Call 715-425-6701 to schedule to get the vaccine.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables

4.1 percent of UW-River Falls students are eating the “at least five servings of fruits and vegetables” recommended. Although availability of fresh local produce decreases during the winter, frozen fruits and vegetables surprisingly have similar nutritional value as the fresh ones!

3. Walk

Making at least a 20 minute walk five times per week part of your routine may reduce your sick days, and if you do get sick it may be less severe and last for a shorter period. Just make sure you protect yourself from the elements, and on those really blustery days, choose an indoor activity.

4. Get plenty of vitamin E

An immune system builder, this antioxidant has been shown to reduce the risks of upper respiratory infections. Vitamin E is found in most nuts and seeds as well as leafy greens and olives.

5. Consider foods rich in zinc

Although zinc is great for your immune system, over 40 milligrams a day can be harmful.  Like vitamin E, zinc is also found in nuts and seeds. Other dietary sources are fortified cereal and animal proteins such as the dark meat of chicken or turkey, lamb and pork.

6. Cut down on your weight

Obviously only those who are overweight should do this, and they need to make sure they are doing so in such a way that they are not creating other nutritional deficiencies. That being said, studies have shown that reducing weight gradually over six months does strengthen immunity.

7. Drink plenty of fluids

Water, green tea and turmeric tea are ideal but liquid from soups, fruits and vegetables also count. You can even count coffee and milk, but try to limit the sugary juices and carbonated beverages. 6-10 cups a day seems to be what most sources recommend.

8. Wash long and often

Frequent handwashing can often get rid of the germs that you might pick up from contaminated surfaces and from touching others. Avoid placing your hands near your eyes, nose and mouth, since these are entrance places for germs. Wash with warm water and soap, creating friction by rubbing your hands together for at least 20 seconds. Make sure you take care to wash under your jewelry and fingernails. You can use hand sanitizer if no water is available, but it is not recommended as a regular substitute for handwashing.

9. Get a good night’s sleep

It has been shown in mice that a specific brain protein (AcPb) linked with sleep affects the ability to fight off symptoms of the flu. Shoot for the elusive eight hours of sleep each and every night.

10. Understand your body

Be intentionally mindful of your body and the stressors in your life. If you are starting to feel run down, focus on wellness practices. If you are unfamiliar with these practices you can seek advice with one of the UWRF counseling staff (715-425-3884). If you need medical treatment, you can use Vibrant Health Family Clinics in River Falls where Student Health contracts some basic services for UWRF students (715-425-6701).

Keven Syverson is the assistant director of health promotion for Counseling and Health Services at UW-River Falls.