FRIDAY, Jan. 24, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- This flu season arrived early and hit children hard, but experts say you can dodge the flu by boosting your immune system.
How? By living a healthy lifestyle and getting sufficient sleep, according to experts from Purdue University's School of Nursing, in West Lafayette, Ind.
So far, nearly 13 million flu cases have been diagnosed this season in the United States, while 39 children and more than 6,600 adults have died from flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, Purdue's Libby Richards, an associate professor of nursing, says a healthy immune system could help you fight the flu.
"There are many things about immunity that are beyond our control, but there are some things we can do to help maintain a strong immune system so we can take care of ourselves," Richards said in a university news release.
Tips to help keep your immune system in tiptop shape include:
- Getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Eating lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Drinking plenty of fluids.
- Staying physically active.
- Not smoking.
- Limiting alcohol.
- Limiting stress.
"If you like to exercise at the gym, be safe and responsible during this cold and flu season. "If you have a productive cough, do everyone a favor and avoid the gym. Staying home is a perfect way to not spread germs," Richards said.
If you have a mild cold, it's fine to exercise, but if you have fatigue, body aches or stomach issues, "you should stay home and rest as exercise could increase your chance of an injury," she said.
It can be a challenge to keep germs contained in your house if there are children, Richards noted.
"Kids touch everything, which is one big way germs are spread. Kids also tend not to understand or value what 'personal space' is and can be in each other's faces all the time," she said. "Parents, teachers and caregivers can demonstrate proper hand washing and cough hygiene all year long -- not just during flu season."
Richards urges using sanitized wipes to clean things kids touch, such as remote controls, phones, tablets, toys, doorknobs and faucets.
And you don't have to be symptomatic to be contagious. "As much as we love to show affection with kisses, it's possible to spread the flu one to three days prior to the start of symptoms," she noted.
For more on flu, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.