6 ways to combat the flu

According to recent reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, instances of the flu have remained relatively low through the early part of 2016. However, as the U.S. National Library of Medicine pointed out, those figures could change suddenly, as experts expect much colder temperatures in the coming winter months. In the meantime, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to the dreaded flu bug while keeping yourself healthy all winter long. Here are six helpful tips to stop the flu right in its tracks:

"Flu rates could increase as the U.S. experiences a cold snap."

1. Wash your hands frequently
According to University Health Services at Berkeley College, germs stick around on everyday surfaces for up to two hours after initial exposure. As a result, flu season means that everyone should wash his or her hands much more frequently. Always use a sanitizer with between 60 percent and 90 percent ethyl alcohol. When washing, scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. 

2. Get plenty of sleep
As Psychology Today explained, influenza causes your immune system to kick into overdrive, which in turn causes added strain on your body. A number of animal studies have show that subjects are able to overcome infection better with longer periods of sleep. By sleeping more, you're ensuring your immune system is ready and able to ward off infection.

3. Eat right
Flu season means overtime for your immune system. Beyond sleep, the right diet can go a long way in aiding your immune system's capabilities. As Women's Day pointed out, there are several foods that can boost your immune response. These food items include almonds, which contain vitamin E, vitamin C-heavy red bell peppers, virus-killing garlic and salmon, which is rich in essential omega-3 acid. 

4. Relieve stress
Though not always easy given your busy schedule, cutting back on stressful situations can do wonders for your health. According to a 2012 study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, those with less stress have a 50 percent lower chance of catching a cold or flu. There are several ways to reduce stress, including regular exercise, meditation and massage therapy.

5. Try some astragalus
Used in Chinese medicine for several thousand years, astragalus is the root of a perennial pea plant. Speaking with Prevention magazine, Dr. Randy Horwitz said the plant can activate the T-cells that are responsible for fighting off viruses. Astragalus is best used like a vegetable – such as as stock in a soup – and is safe to eat daily because it won't cause you to develop a tolerance. 

6. Get vaccinated
Perhaps one of the most effective ways to fight the flu is to get vaccinated annually. According to the CDC, the vaccine has been proven to reduce the risk of flu illness up to 60 percent among the entire population. When you go for your shot, be sure to visit your local CareWell Urgent Care Center. With facilities across the East Coast, CareWell can vaccinate you and your family in no time with little hassle or added paperwork. 

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