Did You Know You Can Prepare For An Inevitable Winter Sickness?

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Cold and flu season is about to make its grand entrance as autumn winds down. This year, it may bring a spike in COVID-19 cases as well, as reported by National Public Radio (NPR). If you suffer from seasonal allergies or health anxiety, this can be a particularly difficult time of year for you. As with all challenges in life, properly preparing can make a world of difference in the level of disruption an illness has on your life.

The average American experiences two to three illnesses caused by cold viruses every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Keeping your body in the healthiest condition it can be in all year round might help you fight off some potential infections, but it's not a guarantee that you won't ever get sick. Here's a guide to preparing both your body and your home for your next winter illness.

Strengthen your immune system

Many supplements, superfoods, and other health products make bold claims about boosting your immune system, but there is no single action you can take to enable your body to suddenly fight off illnesses like a superhero. Strengthening your immune system ultimately takes a holistic approach to living a healthy lifestyle during all seasons, not just winter. According to Harvard Health Publishing, this encompasses eating a healthful diet that meets all your body's needs for vitamins, minerals, and macro-nutrients, as well as regular cardiovascular exercise.

A less obvious component of preserving your physical resilience is limiting stress. A short period of acute stress may actually boost your immune system by temporarily fighting off inflammation. Chronic stress, however, can devastate it by causing inflammation and decreasing the production of germ-fighting white blood cells (via the Cleveland Clinic). Chronic stress, according to Yale Medicine, refers to feeling overwhelmed and under pressure for long periods of time. If you experience these feelings often enough that you've developed frequent inflammatory symptoms like body aches, brain fog, or insomnia, your immune system could be at risk.

Combating chronic stress is no easy task but you can make conscious changes that will make a difference. Examine your list of obligations and consider letting anything that isn't essential go. Saying no to extra tasks when you're struggling is a form of self-care. Incorporating other forms of self-care, like yoga, prioritizing recreation, and practicing aromatherapy can reduce your stress level (via Healthline). 

Build a sickness kit

Most people keep a first aid kit in their homes in case an injury occurs. Consider taking the same approach to illnesses. Before the risk of catching a winter virus peaks, prepare your home. Rather than dragging yourself to the supermarket or pharmacy while experiencing flu symptoms like body aches, chills, and fatigue (via CDC), you can have everything you need at home to nurse yourself back to health before you even get sick.

First, stock up on over-the-counter medications. Reduce fever and fight aches with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Be prepared for sinus pressure or a runny nose with a decongestant. Fight off a dry cough with a cough suppressant such as dextromethorphan or soothe chest congestion with an expectorant like guaifenesin, as advised by FamilyDoctor.org. If you choose to use a multi-symptom cold medication, check to see if it contains acetaminophen or ibuprofen before taking it to avoid overmedicating with separate doses.

Once your medicine cabinet is fully stocked, focus on comfort and nourishment. Be sure you've got an abundance of tissues on hand. Then, think of foods and beverages that are easy to prepare, swallow, and digest. Soup in a can or carton, soft foods like applesauce or yogurt, and plenty of tea bags or concentrates are all good bets. Furthermore, according to Penn Medicine, honey can ease pain and inflammation, so make sure you have some on hand. Finally, make sure you've got a soft robe and blanket available, and then you'll be fully prepared to rest and recover when your next winter sickness strikes.