39023691 - young woman is looking at the thermometer. she has fever.There are so many great things about fall and early winter that it’s hard to count them, However, this time of year also brings the possibility of developing a cold or the flu.

Even for the healthy percentage of the nation’s population, cold and flu season represents a force of nature to be reckoned with. The colder months, though filled with holidays, festivities, and fun activities, are also a time of increased sickness for many people.

And while the germs that are responsible for spreading the cold and flu virus can be found throughout the year, there are a few factors that can increase their viability in wintertime. Even if you typically enjoy a healthy immune system, you’ll want to amp up your efforts to protect yourself and your family from the effects of cold and flu season.

Why cold and flu season hits harder in winter months

There are several reasons why we tend to get sicker when it’s cold out. When the temperatures drop, most people find that spending more time indoors, which increases our proximity to one another, is preferable to outdoor activities. Three to six feet is all it takes to spread certain strains of respiratory virus. If someone near you is sick with cold or flu, most likely you’re breathing in whatever they’re breathing (or coughing, or sneezing) out. If you are sick, stick with the tried-and-tested practice of sneezing or coughing into your elbow, rather than into your hands. Frequent hand washing goes a long way toward preventing the spread of sickness.

For outdoor enthusiasts, plummeting temperatures can have an impact on the type, duration, and frequency of exercise. Do you enjoy a brisk walk or workout in the fall or spring, but find yourself passing on exercise when the thermometer dips toward the 20s or 30s? So, too, do most people, the article finds. Exercise is known to boost the function of the immune system, so skipping this important part of a daily routine may be setting you up for higher risk of catching the cold and flu.

What would the holidays be without treats? Food is a huge part of winter celebrations, and typically, we’re not talking about salad and platters full of fresh vegetables. Desserts and dishes rich in chocolate, cream, sugar and other ingredients we may not indulge in during other months of the year, make for delicious treats, but don’t always bode well for supporting healthy immune function. Eating too much sugar lowers the immune system’s ability to fight off attacks during cold and flu season, and could heighten your susceptibility to illness. Be sure to drink plenty of water and make healthful choices during the winter. This doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in Aunt Edna’s famous Christmas fudge, but moderation is key.

Protect your home and family at the frontline

While you can’t control the cleanliness of the world around you (think shopping carts, school desks, elevator buttons, and door knobs, to name a few), you can wage war against cold and flu season within your own home. As mentioned above, frequent hand washing is an important part of keeping up your defenses. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer close by, and use it often.

Whatever you day, stay warm and healthy this winter and don’t forget to get your flu shot!

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