5 tips for boosting health amid flu season and coronavirus

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This year’s cold and flu season is coupled with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, so you may be considering ways you can give your health a lift.

One of the first thoughts may be to strengthen your immune system, but according to Cedars-Sinai immunologist Dr. Suzanne Cassel, you don’t want to aim for that.

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“You actually don’t want your immune system to be stronger, you want it to be balanced,” Cassel said on the Cedars-Sinai blog. “Too much of an immune response is just as bad as too little response.”

Rather than focusing on the immune system, it’s important to take overall steps to maintain good health and hygiene this season. Today.com outlined several tips on how people can stay healthy. Five of them are below.

Get a flu shot

This year, perhaps more than ever, experts recommend people get the flu shot. Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people get one by the end of October. Recently, virologist Robert Gallo, who directs the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told NPR about evidence that suggested getting one with a live virus can help protect against COVID-19.

“The vaccine has to have a live virus in it," he said. “The virus is attenuated so it doesn’t cause disease, but otherwise, the virus is alive.”

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Wash your hands

This tip has been oft-repeated throughout the coronavirus outbreak, but with flu season among us, it’s important to continue to do so. Even though you can use hand sanitizer when you can’t get access to soap and water, hand washing is better and experts prefer it.

“Hand sanitizer may kill viruses and certain bacteria, but it does not ‘clean’ your hands like soap and water do,” Athanasios Melisiotis, a physician with Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told Allure magazine. “Sanitizer doesn’t remove actual dirt and debris. Soap kills germs, binds them, and helps physically remove them, with the water, off your skin and down the drain.”

Make sure you wash your hands properly and for the right length of time. Spend 20 seconds rubbing the palms, back of your hands and in between your fingers and under your nails with soap and water.

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Ensure you’re getting quality sleep

According to the CDC, adults need to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Some older adults need to get as many as nine hours of rest. Sleep plays an important role in your immune system and not getting enough of it can poorly affect it.

“Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus," Rochester, Minnesota-based critical care specialist, pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist Dr. Eric J. Olson, said on the Mayo Clinic website. "Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”

Make sure to exercise

It may be more difficult now that many of us have continued to work from home, however, getting regular physical activity is beneficial. The World Health Organization said it can improve functional health as well as muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Adults should strive for “at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity,” the WHO said.

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Take care of your mental health

Frequently, we think of health in terms of physical fitness, but it’s important to look after your mental wellbeing, too.

Studies have shown that stress can negatively affect your physical health, so it’s important to look for ways to remove it from your life. Healthline reported that over time, stress hormones can lessen your body’s immune response to infections and leave you more susceptible to viruses including the flu.

“Stress is really a factor that influences our physical health and our mental health," Lorna Thorpe, Ph.D., the director of the division of epidemiology in the department of population health at NYU Langone Medical Center, told Today. "The steps that we can take to reduce that agitation, such as limiting intake of the news cycle, really is important.”

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