Flu season runs from October to May, so if you haven't gotten jabbed, now's the time. "The vaccine takes anywhere from two to four weeks to take effect, and it lasts for at least six months, so if you get it now, you'll be primed for the flu's peak in January or February," says Andrew Pekosz, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get it. About 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu-related complications each year, and thousands die. In fact, as many as 18,000 people in the U.S. are estimated to have lost their lives to the H1N1 epidemic of 2009.
You always hear that rest is important when you're under the weather, but research shows that it really could make the difference between who gets sick and who doesn't. In a study from Carnegie Mellon University, people who got eight or more hours of sleep were less likely to come down with a cold than those who'd snoozed for fewer than seven hours, even when a live virus was placed directly in their nose. (Suddenly, staying up late to catch up on Downton Abbey doesn't sound quite as tempting.)
What you put in your mouth can make a huge difference in how well your body fights off cold and flu germs. Step one: Cut back on fatty foods and eat more of the stuff that boosts your immune response, like fruit and vegetables, experts advise. Federal guidelines recommend that we get five to nine servings of fruit and veggies a day. At the very least, have one at every meal or snack"especially orange, yellow-orange, and deep green produce, which are highest in the symptom-beating antioxidants you need now: vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene," says Melina Jampolis, MD, a Los Angeles internist and author of The Calendar Diet.