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Beat That Cold!

Fighting off illness is hard work! Viral particles are entering cells, reproducing and then bursting free with thousands of copies destroying the host cells in the process. At the same time, your body is launching a multi-pronged attack. As soon as infection is detected, the body begins releasing T cells, which target and destroy viral-infected cells. Natural Killer Cells destroy cells that are stressed. Macrophages circulate in the bloodstream and swallow up pieces of destroyed cells after Natural Killer Cell attack. B cells build antibodies that specifically target the virus or bacteria.There is a full blown war taking place inside you with every cold and stomach bug. It's amazing we can function at all while our bodies are under attack.

With school back in session and kids in close quarters, viruses are going to spread around. Read on to review the best ways to stay healthy this season, and how to get back into fighting shape if you do get sick.

1. Wash Your Hands.

Yes, I know you have heard it a hundred times. But it's true: hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of infection. Wash before preparing or eating and after using bathroom, coughing or sneezing into hands. Antibacterial soap overuse might lead to resistant organisms, so I encourage washing with regular soap. On the go, hand sanitizer is effective as long as hands are not visibly soiled. If they are, soap and water are needed to get a good clean.

2. Drink Up.

Staying hydrated is important to keep your body functioning well at baseline, but is especially important when fighting off a virus. Maintaining a steady intake of fluids will help the kidneys filter out waste from the bloodstream. Typically, illness causes a loss of appetite too, so it is important to drink extra, to compensate for the lack of water found in meals.

3. Catch those zzz's

A well rested body functions at its best. Fight the urge to binge that new season on Netflix and get to be early. Even minor sleep deficiencies can weaken the immune system and put you at risk for catching more infections.

4. Take the flu shot

The influenza vaccine for the 2018/2019 season is becoming available and I strongly recommend everyone get vaccinated. Influenza is a serious disease. In the 2016/2017 season, the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 5.3 million influenza illnesses in the US and 85,000 influenza-related hospitalizations, according to the CDC. The vaccine contains pieces of influenza virus so it can not transmit the flu. (Please don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.)

5. Flush out the sinuses

Saline nasal sprays work wonders for flushing out mucus, allergens and infectious particles from the sinuses. By clearing the congestion and virus more quickly, you reduce the risk of a secondary bacterial infection. Many allergy suffers will irrigate their noses on a daily basis to reduce their symptoms, too!

6. Use a humidifier

Adding moisture to the air can ease congestion and bring some relief to stuffy noses.

7. Consider Vitamin C, Echinacea or Zinc

These alternative remedies have had mixed results in clinical trials. The jury is still out, but some studies are promising that Vitamin C might help reduce duration of cold symptoms if taken before symptoms develop. Echinacea seems to be most effective if taken at the first sign of cold symptoms and continued for at least 7-10 days. It can interact with medications or supplements, so check with your doctor before trying this one out. Some studies show that taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of a cold reduces symptom duration by about a day. Zinc can have harmful side effects, so check with your doctor before use.

Illness make us feel terrible and there are no quick fixes, so prevention is key. Hand washing, taking care of yourself and getting the flu vaccine can all help reduce the chance of a bug taking hold. If you do get sick, make sure to get plenty of rest, fluids and moisten the nose with saline rinses and humidifier to feel better soon.

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