Autumn brings beautiful fall colors, cooler temperatures, and the dreaded cold and flu. While you can somewhat protect yourself against the flu with a shot, there’s no vaccine for the common cold. Over the age of 65, even a regular cold can leave you flat on your back, and contracting the flu could be deadly. 

These remedies might not protect you 100 percent, but they can definitely help boost your immune system.

With that said, if you do contract a cold and experience severe symptoms such as high fever, nausea, dry/hard coughs that seem to linger, make sure to visit your doctor to ensure you don’t have a more serious issue.

Wash Your Hands Often

How many times have you seen someone cough or sneeze in their hands and then grab a door handle? This happens all the time, and you probably touch a door handle a dozen times a day. As simple as it might sound, washing your hands often can help reduce your chances of getting sick. 

When washing your hands, make sure to scrub thoroughly for at least 20 seconds to ensure your hands are clean. Don’t worry about using antibacterial soap either as both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses not bacteria.

In fact, using antibacterial soap might actually do more harm than good in the long run as some studies have shown that its use could be linked to the rise of super resistant bacteria.

Exercise

That cold snap in the air makes it so tempting to stay inside and cuddle under some blankets. But getting daily exercise can help boost your immune system in addition to other benefits such as:

  • Decreased risk of developing heart disease
  • Improved circulation 
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Improved stamina
  • Arthritis management
  • Better sleep quality

The best part is that you don’t need to run a marathon or hike a mountain to get in some decent exercise. Doing chores, such as raking leaves or shoveling the snow, counts as moderate-intensity exercise.

Or, if you’d prefer staying indoors as the days get colder, getting some small home exercise equipment can help keep you active. You don’t even need that much space in your home for storage as you can find compact dumbbells or cardio machines that will easily fit in the corner of a room.

Get Enough Sleep

As you age, it becomes harder to get a good night’s sleep as your body releases less melatonin, leading to more fragmented sleep cycles. Add on those other health issues that can cause sleep disturbances and medication that can cause insomnia and you have a recipe for poor sleep. 

Sleep is one of the most essential needs as it helps maintain brain health, physical health, and mood. Getting less than the recommended six hours of sleep can also reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. 

If you’re finding it hard to go to sleep at night, you might want to look into your habits before bed. Do you have a routine that you follow? Are you looking at your computer or smartphone beforehand? Do you eat or drink before bed?

Take a good look at your routine and try to make the following changes:

  • Avoid looking at a screen for at least an hour or two before bed. The blue light from screens can negatively affect your sleep cycle.
  • Stop eating two to three hours before bed. This will allow your body to digest all the food consumed at dinner and then calm down and prepare for rest.
  • If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, don’t drink any liquids at least a couple hours before bed.
  • Create a routine for yourself to signal to your body that it is time to wind down for the day and get some sleep. That might mean reading a chapter from a book or even taking a shower or bath before bed.

You might also want to see a sleep specialist if you have consistent insomnia to rule out health issues such as sleep apnea.

Eat the Rainbow

A healthy immune system begins from within. If you’re not eating a balanced diet, you’re not getting the necessary nutrients to protect your body from harmful invaders.

It might be more difficult to stomach some food items as you age, but try to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to keep your body healthy and happy. Some foods have a particularly potent effect on the immune system so make sure you keep them in your diet:

  • Blueberries contain flavonoids, which help boost the respiratory immune system.
  • Ginger has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.
  • Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a potent antioxidant.
  • Spinach contains vitamin C and E, both known to help support the immune system.

Stop Stressing

Life is full of stressors, but the trick is to not let them affect you too much. When your body is in stress mode, it releases a hormone called cortisol, which impairs the function of your T cells. You need those T cells though, as they’re white blood cell ‘soldiers’ that destroy invading pathogens. 

Stress can also lead to poor decisions and coping behaviors such as smoking and heavy drinking. Both of these also reduce the effectiveness of your immune system.

So, how can you reduce stress? Practice relaxation techniques that work for you whether that’s exercising, walking in nature, talking to friends, reading a book, or practicing yoga or tai chi.

Maintaining your health as a woman of 60+ doesn’t have to be complicated. Following these simple steps won’t just help reduce your risk of getting the cold or flu, it will also help improve your overall health and wellbeing!

What are some natural remedies you practice to keep from getting sick in the fall/winter? Let’s discuss more about the topic in the comments below!

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