By Abbie Cornett
Fall is my favorite time of year. I love almost everything about it: the cool nights, the leaves changing colors and the smell of wood smoke in the air. The one thing I don't love is that it is cold and flu season. No one can argue that sucks! And, this season can be particularly hard to get through if you have a chronic illness, especially one that compromises your immune system.
I can honestly say I have never made it through a single fall without being sick at least once, and part of that is my fault. I frequently ignore the advice I give others about how to keep from getting sick. My excuse is always my kids bring it home from the germ factories commonly known as school. And, while this is partially true, it's not the whole truth. I ignore a lot of common-sense advise about how to stay well. So, since I know I am not the only one, I thought I would remind everyone of some simple steps to help prevent getting sick:
- The first step, which I frequently ignore, is to avoid sick people! I know this can be hard if you're a mom or a caregiver because your first instinct is to take care of the person you love, but in the long run, it is better for everyone.
- If you can't avoid contact, be smart about it. Wash your hands frequently, particularly before eating or touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched. The flu virus can live on a surface for hours.1
- Don't share food or drinks with others. For me, this means not letting my kids steal my water; for others, this means avoiding communal snacks.
- Get plenty of sleep. There is a direct link between sleep and the immune system. Lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show 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.2
- Eat a balanced diet. Good nutrition is essential for protecting you from seasonal illness such as the flu.
- Hydrate properly. Drinking enough fluids during the drier winter months is critical. Proper hydration helps keep the mucous membranes soft and moist, preventing tiny cracks that allow viruses and bacteria to enter.3
- Reduce your sugar and alcohol consumption.
- If you have a chronic medical condition speak with your physician about whether you should be getting a flu shot.
1. Practical Pain Management. Black, R. Getting a Cold or Flu When You Already Have Chronic Pain. Accessed at Cold and flu season can be particularly hard if you have a chronic illness, especially one that compromises your immune system.
2. Olson, E. Lack of Sleep: Can It Make You Sick. Mayo Clinic. Accessed at
3. Rodriguez-Brindicci, D, and Nessel, D. Immune-Boosting Nutrition. Torrance Memorial. accessed at