17 Tricks You Haven’t Heard to Prevent Colds & Flu

Getty ImagesGetty ImagesBy Jessica Smith

Boost your immune system and stay healthy this winter with these simple, all-natural expert tips:

Wash Your Hands -- Up To Your Elbows
Yes, we said elbows. While regular hand washing is one of the top tips to avoid getting sick in cold and flu season, scrubbing all the way up to your elbows could be even more effective, says Stacy Mobley N.M.D. The gross truth: "Studies suggest that the forearm holds more bacteria than your armpit," explains Mobley. In fact, the top places on the body for bacteria to thrive are the forearms, palms, index fingers, back of knee and the soles of feet, according to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Mobley recommends washing your hands and forearms regularly with soap, especially before eating or touching your face, and lathering up for the full length of the "Happy Birthday" song to wash off all cold and flu causing germs.

Dry Your Hands on Paper (Not Cloth) Towels
What you dry your hands with is just as important as washing them, says Jamie Oskin, N.D. a naturopathic physician. Reusing the same cloth towel can spread even more germs. "Paper towels can be easily disposed of to prevent the spreading of germs." It may seem un-green to use paper towels, but Dr. Oskin points out that for the amount of times a sick person washes her hands, it can be more of a burden on the environment to keeping washing those cloth towels.

Use Soup Bones
We always wondered why chicken soup was so good for colds, and it seems that the chicken bones could hold at least a part of the answer. "Depending on your diet, try and incorporate bone marrow into your soups and stews by adding organic, free-range bones into the broth," recommends Elizabeth Trattner, A.P, D.O.M, an integrative medicine specialist in Miami Beach, FL. "Marrow is the root of blood and yin in Chinese Medicine and keeps the body healthy and strong during the winter season," she says. Bone marrow contains a type of fat found in our organs (in small amounts), which encourages the body to produce white blood cells to protect against infections and disease, explains Trattner.

Take a Daily Dose of Elderberry Syrup
This antioxidant and vitamin-rich dark berry could help you ward off illness, says Mobley. Researchers at the University of Giessen in Germany found that liquid elderberry extract was strong enough to destroy disease-causing bacteria and flu viruses. "Elderberries are filled with antioxidants and vitamins, namely Vitamin C and A. Any foods or medicine high in antioxidant status would help to ward off bacterial and viral infections, as well as support the heart, lungs and eyes," explains Mobley, who recommends a daily teaspoon of elderberry syrup. She likes Gaia herbs' organic elderberry syrup because it's free of high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavorings, preservatives and pesticides.

Get Outside
It may seem counterintuitive that spending time outdoors can prevent colds, but it may be the key to staying healthy in the winter, says Aditi Nerurkar, M.D., an integrative medicine physician. "It's a myth that cold weather causes colds and the flu. The reason we see more of these illnesses during colder months is because we spend more time indoors, so we expose ourselves to these viruses more often," explains Dr. Nerurkar.

She recommends taking on a winter sport, like skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing or just taking regular walks. You'll minimize your exposure to viruses that may be cooped up indoors, and you'll stay fit while getting some fresh air.

To read the other tricks, click here!

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