October 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm , by Amelia Harnish
If you’ve ever had the flu, you know you don’t want to get it again. It hits you like a ton of bricks: the worst combination of fever, chills and body aches you’ve ever experienced, leaving you curled up on your couch, thinking, If this doesn’t end soon, I give up! That’s what I’ve experienced, anyway, and that’s why I’m getting a flu shot. It’s the most important thing you can do to escape the misery.
Now there’s some exciting evidence that there’s even more you can do. Researchers at Iowa State University found that college students who exercised after getting the flu vaccine doubled their immune response compared with college students who remained sedentary. The study was small, so the next step is looking at how moderate exercise, such as going for a walk, done right after vaccination can affect immune response in a larger group of people, says Marian Kohut, Ph.D, professor of kinesiology at ISU and lead study author. We already know that people who regularly exercise are better protected from the flu, so the researchers are optimistic that some moderate exercise right after the shot may boost immune response, too.
When you get vaccinated, you’re exposed to an inactive flu virus. Your body produces antibodies to the virus, even though it doesn’t make you sick, so that if you come across the flu virus later on it’s easier for you to fight it off. Exercise seems to boost this initial immune response, which can mean better protection throughout the year. It’s still unclear exactly why it helps so much, but an earlier study showed that exercise increases your immune cells’ production of the virus-fighting chemical interferon. The increase in circulation you get when you exercise may also help, says Dr. Kohut.
So why not give it a try? It can’t hurt! After you get your flu vaccine, go for a brisk walk, or plan to get your shot right before one of your regular workouts.
And yes, we practice what we preach. That’s Julie, LHJ’s health director, above, getting her flu shot. Now excuse us while we go run around the block!
November 3, 2010 at 9:15 am , by Amelia Harnish
Ah, fall: the time for pumpkin patches, crisp breezes and, with another passing Halloween, the official start of cold and flu season. Before you know it, the sounds of nose-blowing and echoing sneezes will be as ubiquitous as Christmas lights.
The average adult has two to four colds a year, but doesn’t it seem like it always happens at the worst time, like during holiday gatherings? Maybe you can’t completely escape all the bugs floating around, but there are a few things you can do to make this cold and flu season as painless as possible.
- Get Your Flu Shot
- Steer Clear
- Stay Home If You’re the Sick One
- Keep Clean
- Exercise, No Excuses!
- Get Your Vitamin D
This year the CDC recommends the flu shot for everyone over 6 months old as the first and best step you can take to prevent the flu. This season’s vaccine protects against three of the most common viruses, including H1N1.
Because coughing or sneezing can spread germs three feet, try to stay away from anyone who’s showing signs of being sick. While you can’t always avoid tight spaces, such as elevators or public transportation, try not to touch anything, especially your own eyes, nose or mouth, and carry hand sanitizer to use before returning to your home or office.
Lying in bed can be hard when you’ve got a million things to do, but if you’re ailing, think about doing what’s right for your fellow humans: Stay home and give yourself a break. You’ll get well quicker. If you must be out and about, have tissues handy—coughing or sneezing into a tissue and then trashing it is the best way to stop the spread of germs.
Germs can live anywhere from 24 hours in the air to two days or longer on surfaces like doorknobs and desktops. Your best bet is to be diligent: wash your hands at least five times a day, and avoid touching your face or biting your nails. Be sure to clean those commonly touched areas like phones and light switches, especially if someone at home is sick.
Don’t let the cold discourage you from getting your exercise. If you can’t go for a walk, pop in a fitness DVD. People who remained physically active throughout the fall and winter spent fewer days sick, according to a recent study. Exercise increases the amount of immune cells circulating in your body, but only for a few hours afterward. Make sure you get into a routine to maximize the effects.
Researchers are starting to think vitamin D, which we get from the sun, may have something to do with why we get sick when it gets colder and we head inside. One recent study found that people with high levels of vitamin D were three times less likely to catch a respiratory infection. If you can’t get a few minutes of sun each day, take a D3 supplement or try getting more D from dairy foods or fish.
Photo via Flickr by ArlingtonVa