How I Combat Cold and Flu Season

Combatting cold and flu season

Cold and flu season lasts from September to April every year in my neck of the woods. I try to do everything I can to avoid both but with a germ-ridden daycare toddler, it’s inevitable that Anel and I will get sick at some point. This is what we do to avoid it at all costs and what we do when the bugs hit!

Before taking any of my advice, please remember that I’m not a doctor and that you should consult yours before taking anything or doing anything you’re unsure about.

Immunity Maintenance

Sleep/rest- If you have kids, feel free to skip to the next tip… But in all seriousness, our immune systems get weaker when we don’t get enough sleep so I try to prioritize sleep even more than usual in the winter months. And on weekends Anel and I will rest during Amalia’s nap to get some downtime.

Supplements- Throughout the year I take a multivitamin along with fish oil, Vitamin D and probiotics, but from November-March, I add in Vitamin C (immune boosting) and curcumin (anti-inflammatory).

Essential oils- I’ve talked about my love for DoTerra a lot in the past (not #sponsored), but their OnGuard essential oil is a godsend for immune boosting. I don’t know how it works but it really does. I use the roller on my wrists and neck daily and on the bottoms of Amalia’s feet before bed. We also diffuse it in the house every few days in the winter too. It smells warm like orange, cloves, and cinnamon.

Wash your hands- It seems obvious but not everyone thinks to do this. If you’re around anyone who is sick, wash your hands as often as possible (keep hand cream in your purse to combat dry skin if you need it). I always keep organic hand sanitizer on hand in case I can’t wash my hands on the go.

Acupuncture- I wrote a whole post with my friend Sarah all about what acupuncture can do for you and why, but I also see her twice a month to work on any issues I’m going through at the time. In the winter, she always pokes my immunity points!

Watch what you eat- Dairy, sugar, and alcohol are all inflammatory and can weaken your immune system so just try to be mindful of how much of those you consume.

At the first signs of illness

Hydrate hydrate hydrate- When I would get sick as a kid, my mom used to make a chart where I had to check off that I had finished 8oz of water every hour. It used to annoy the crap out of me, but like many things she did that pissed me off growing up, I now realize she was so so right. Hydrating prevents dehydration (duh) but your body also needs the extra fluids to help combat whatever you have going on.

If you have the stomach flu, this can be hard but lots of small sips usually do the trick.

Propolis throat spray- Anel and I swear by this stuff. Bee propolis is like a beehive’s “immune system”. It has been used for centuries for immune support and sore throat and it works like a charm. If you do one thing from this list, buy propolis spray.

DoTerra OnGuard throat drops- Back to DoTerra here, but these throat drops are a lifesaver. I take 2-3/day until I’m 100% again. If you have even the slightest sore throat, they seem to tackle it right away.

Supplements- As if my list above wasn’t enough, I really go nuts at the first sign of imbalance. I up my Vitamin D intake to 10,000 IUs, take Vitamin C to bowel tolerance (yep, that means exactly what it sounds like), zinc, Wellness Formula, plus oregano oil capsules every few hours.

Oregano oil is magical. It protects against viral infections and apparently stimulates the production of white blood cells which defend your body against illness. It’s pretty intense so I definitely recommend pill form over drops if you can’t handle the heat!

Tea- I drink echinacea tea every hour or two at the first sign of sickness and I love the Yogi Tea Cold Season tea too. If I have a sore throat, Traditional Medicinals makes the best Throat Coat tea that makes a surprisingly big difference.

Apple Cider Vinegar- I start the morning with a mug of hot water, lemon, a tablespoon of ACV, and honey which works to alkalinize the body. An alkaline environment can help to kill bacteria and viruses. I drink this concoction every day until I feel 100% again. I know people who do this every day, but TBH it’s gross so no thank you!

Relieve Symptoms

Even if you do everything I listed above, obviously there is still a chance that you’ll get sick this winter, so once it hits me hard I keep up with everything I just mentioned in addition to a few things to review symptoms.

Magic Socks- Ok this one is going to sound totally insane but try it and I guarantee you’ll change your tune. I learned this trick recently from a naturopathic doctor when I was coming down with a cold a few weeks ago. The next morning, my symptoms completely disappeared. No joke though!  Here’s how to do make your own magic socks:

  • Soak the pair of thin cotton socks in cold water. Then wring them out.
  • Take a hot bath for 5-10 minutes or just put your feet in a bath of hot water. Don’t skip this step!
  • Dry off and place the cold socks on your warm, dry feet.
  • Pull on a pair of thick wool socks over them.
  • Wear the socks overnight. It’s important that you get right into bed after you put on the socks.

I couldn’t tell you why this works but according to my naturopath, it works to stimulate the immune system and also gives you a more restful sleep when you’re sick. I’ve tried this three times now and have had success every single time! It also helps with any congestion, FYI.

Coldcalm- This homeopathic remedy actually does help relieve symptoms (it doesn’t boost immunity or help you get better faster, FYI) so it’s great if you have to work or have a busy day.

Neti Pot- If I have any sort of congestion, I do a neti pot a few times each day or whenever my nose gets really stuffed up. It clears me right out and gives me relief even if for a few minutes.

Xlear- One of my friends turned me on to this homeopathic nasal spray. All of the medicated ones freak me out for some reason but this does a lot more than regular saline spray because it also contains Xylitol. I suggest giving yourself a spritz or two post-neti pot.

NyQuil- Sometimes you just need to sleep when you’re sick. I try to only use NyQuil as a last resort but when I know there is no chance of me sleeping without it, I take it because I really believe that sleep is the best cure for any cold.

Zarbees- Since I’ve been on anxiety meds, NyQuil makes me feel absolutely nuts so I found this product from Zarbees which is essentially the same idea but natural and uses only Melatonin for the sleep aid.

Halls menthol cough drops- Honestly if I have a cough or sore throat, I swear by these. They’re probably made of poison and food coloring but at a certain point I just don’t even care. But they have to be the menthol ones!

What are your tips for staying healthy during cold season?

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  1. Ryann Carter said:

    I love all of these homeopathic methods! I try to do natural when possible, but also don’t hesitate to turn to modern meds when necessary. But OnGuard is composed of immune system stimulating oils like cinnamon. It’s DoTerra’s version of thieves oil. In case you don’t know, the legend behind thieves oil is that a group of bad men rubbed themselves in these different oils during the plague, and then would go grave robbing because people were so fearful of it they would throw their family members out without removing valuables. And these thieves never got sick. Regardless of its possibly sinister origins, I love the stuff. I thought I was getting sick the other night (turns out it was allergies and exhaustion from a big day) but I immediately started diffusing it. And it smells so good!

    1.29.18 · Reply
    • I love that story about the plague!! I never knew where the term thieves oil came from, so funny 🙂

      1.29.18 · Reply
  2. Allie said:

    I love all the natural options! I try to avoid medicine (until I can’t anymore) and these are great. My favorite tip I use is steam. I steam up the bathroom and stand in it or the hot shower for a while to try and open up everything that’s congested, or put my head over a bowl of steaming water. xAllie

    1.29.18 · Reply
    • Oh good call! I did that for my daughter but never thought to do it for myself!!

      1.29.18 · Reply
  3. Caroline Winterhoff said:

    I am a teacher and I swear by Emergen-C. I take it once a week all school year, even if I feel OK. The combo of that and Echinacea tea works well.

    1.29.18 · Reply
    • Oh good call! I love Emergen-C for flights but didn’t think of taking it regularly, thanks for the tip!

      1.30.18 · Reply
  4. Isabelle J said:

    Thank you for all of these great tips! I had a bad cold earlier this winter and a cough that would not go away until I started taking a spoonful of ACV mixed with water every night before bed. Now I’m thinking of following your advice with ACV in the morning. Cheers from the West Coast!

    1.29.18 · Reply
    • Hey that’s great that it worked! People don’t always believe in this stuff but I swear by it!

      1.30.18 · Reply
  5. Ashley said:

    Thanks for the tips! Did you use OnGuard essential oils while pregnant and / or nursing?

    1.30.18 · Reply
    • I did! But definitely ask your OB before you do it 🙂

      1.30.18 · Reply
  6. Kristin said:

    We had a micro-preemie baby and when we brought her home, I was hyper anxious about germs so we didn’t end up back in the hospital. A few tips we brought home from the NICU that kept us all germ free during sick season:

    – I made my husband strip his clothes when he got home from work. Sounds extreme, but germs live on more than our hands and this was really helpful before going in for hugs and kisses.

    – The hand washing is crucial and keep something by the sink to get under your nails. We basically scrubbed in like we did at the hospital lol.

    – Use a mask around the house if you have something nasty. A pain but this also helps a lot.

    – I disinfected common surfaces like light switches, remotes, handles, etc. once a week. Read the back of your disinfectant. Most of them require you to leave it for 5-10 minutes for it to actually kill germs. I never knew this.

    – I know this isn’t possible for everyone but the NICU recommended we didn’t take our daughter to public places like grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, Target, etc. during sick season. I was able to heed that advice last year and learned I could plan most of my errands when my husband was home to watch her. Planning to do the same this year – obviously we are an extreme case but it really did work!

    9.30.19 · Reply
  7. KT said:

    For the flu, no recommendation for the flu shot?

    9.30.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I don’t get involved with that online bc people get so up in arms on both ends!!

      9.30.19 · Reply
    • Jules said:

      Right? The simplest and easiest way to protect against the flu is the flu shot. It is between 40% and 60% effective, effectively cutting your risk of getting the flu in half.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think a lot of these are excellent suggestions to deal with symptoms of congestion and the like. However, none of them will actually help your body produce antibodies to fight the flu.

      I understand not wanting to controversial when things are a matter of opinion but the ability of the flu vaccine to prevent the flu is a matter of objective fact.

      9.30.19 · Reply
      • Julia said:

        Fair enough! Amalia gets it every year just FYI. Although she still got a terrible 10-day flu last year. It was brutal!

        9.30.19 · Reply
  8. Cait said:

    Have you tried elderberry tea or supplements? That’s my new obsession for cold and flu season! I always love ginger kombucha when I’m sick too!

    9.30.19 · Reply
  9. Caroline said:

    Hi there! Do you have a study/source that cites dairy as inflammatory? I’m a medical student and we’re studying carbohydrate metabolism right now, and we’ve really been emphasizing how different carbohydrate metabolites can contribute to disease states or be a hallmark of disease. I’ve heard a lot about fructose, but have never seen anything about galactose (the “bad” sugar in milk). I’d be very interested in reading/learning more! Thanks!

    9.30.19 · Reply
  10. Kelsey said:

    This is a great post!! I’d love to see another one specifically on what you do for Amalia’s colds/illnesses. I have a 15 mo, and daycare cold season is already here. 🙁

    10.1.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Daycare cold season is the worst. Is it her first winter in daycare? Ours was brutal but it’s so much better now! I do the DoTerra OnGuard roller on Amalia’s feet every day and give her vitamin D drops on her breakfast.

      10.1.19 · Reply
  11. Meghna said:

    Hi Julia, love your blog. Quick question – the medication reco’s that you have shared – is this a personal recommendation or have you discussed this with your doctor as well?

    10.30.19 · Reply