What Tips Do You Have for Preventing Illness During the Winter?

Updated on January 07, 2013
R.S. asks from Chicago, IL
30 answers

I am on day 4 of the flu...I never had the flu before and I'm amazed at just how much it has wiped me out...fever, chills, stomach upset, respiratory stuff...yuck, yuck, yuck (not to mention having to still be a mommy to my children). I am hoping I am on the way to recovery but I would like to hear from others if you take anything/do anything to help keep your immunity strong during the cold winter months? My husband is now coughing and sneezing up a storm and says his body aches, and my 3 year old hasn't moved from the couch and is complaining she doesn't feel well. I know that sometimes no matter what steps you take, if you're going to get sick, you're going to get sick and that's that...
We wash our hands with soap frequently and eat a lot of fruits and veggies but I don't take any supplements or give my kids any...maybe I should?

So, just curious what you all do, if anything? Thanks.

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answers from Detroit on

We get flu vaccines every year. I've been taking a women's multivitamin for about 6 months now and it has made my immune system stronger. Usually, I get a nasty cold in the winter, but this year it only lasted a few days, so the multivitamin really does help.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You've gotten some great suggestions. In addition to washing hands and keeping my hands away from my face (and eating healthy, etc) I do nasal rinses in the shower every day and I swear it has helped more than anything else! I used to get a cold every year or every other year and since doing nasal rinses daily I haven't been sick in years! I know it's really hard to get used to doing (it took me months of trying because I have a fear of water) but they really help tremendously.

Hope you're all feeling better soon. Nothing worse than a house full of sickies!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Hand washing is the #1 thing to do.
We also:
Cover coughs.
Clean the house more frequently when someone is sick, especially knobs and faucets.
Air out the "sick" room.
Take a multivitamin.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Indianapolis on

All the other advice is great, I would add one thing. 70% of your immune system comes from your gut, so you need to keep it "balanced" with a probiotic. Not from eating food that has it in there, an actual pill/chewable whatever form of probiotic. If you have a natural food store near you, that is better than one that has other things in it, you want it all natural.

I read about this a couple of years ago and we've taken one (year round) and we've been healthier the last two years than we ever have.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Parkersburg on

We take multivitamins, avoid crowds when possible, try to eat healthy, get outdoors as much as possible, and wash our hands every time we leave the house. We actually avoid the flu shot. (After some research on vaccines, we found that they actually SUPPRESS the immune system for a few weeks after getting the shot, which is probably why you hear of so many stories of people catching the flu after getting the flu shot. My husband only received it twice in his life and both times were the years he came down with horrible cases of....the flu. He hasn't EVER had the flu before or since then.) But the big difference this year is we have started taking vitamin D3 drops this winter. We have only been sick once so far. Over the holidays we were exposed to a really nasty cold/flu virus from relatives. We all got sick BUT for us it was only a mild cold that caused a couple of sniffles and a slight scratchy throat for maybe 2 days. Otherwise we felt fine. So I wonder if the vitamin D3 drops made our immune systems work so much better. Vitamin D3 is the closest type to the natural sunlight which is crucial for a properly working immune system. (And in the northern hemisphere, you simply can't get it from the sun during the winter months - AKA cold and flu season.) In the southern hemisphere they have SIGNIFICANTLY less cases of cold and flu each year then we do in the northern hemisphere, probably because they get more sunlight. Worth trying! :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Hi. I'm an EMT and Army Combat Medic.

I highly recommend proper handwashing as the number one method to prevent illness.

Next, get your entire family their flu shot (and don't think that just because you've had the flu that you shouldn't go get it now...get it so you're protected against the other two strains).

Finally, I take 1000mg of vitamin C (from rose hips), and 5,000 IU of vitamin D (from cholecalciferol) every day. I give my kids (ages 10 and 11) half of what I take. When they were little (3-6) gave them 1/4 of what I take.

It's nearly impossible to overdose on D or C (your kid could eat the entire bottle and be fine, because it is sustained high doses over several weeks that cause adverse effects...and by high doses, I mean over 15,000 IU of D, or over 8,000mg of C every day over two-three weeks). So don't worry too much about figuring out the perfect dose. It's not like motrin. Here's some more information on vitamin D effacacy and dosages: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d/NS_patient-vit...

I seldom get sick, even when dealing with patients all day. Starting this regimen now will help fight off your illnesses, since you'll be boosting your immune system.

Fruits and veggies are great, but you'll make your tongue raw before you're able to eat enough oranges and drink enough juice to get the vitamin C you're needing.

Best of luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

You can take tons of physical remedies but all of these will be only as effective as your levels of stress will allow. It is time to address more diligently our mind/body connection. I recommend watching Lissa Rankin, MD on youtube.

Reduce your stress levels.
Get enough sleep.
Address your anxieties and worries.
Take time for yourself.
Be loving and kind to yourself.
Learn to say "No."
Create time for things you really enjoy.
Eliminate busy work and doing things out of "obligation."
Heal childhood woundings.
Learn about and keep boundaries.
Learn good communication skills, including how to listen more effectively.
Increase your personal resources.
Find and embrace all the "yummy" things like music, dancing, nature, laughter, etc.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I was told this after all of us had the flu one year. Each family member should have their own toothpaste. Our toothbrushes come in contact with toothpaste every time we use it. Also get new toothbrushes after every sickness. I also keep Clorox wipes in the bathroom and in the kitchen. No sharing of lip balm either. Paper or plastic cups when sick. I like this question!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

We do vitamin D3 drops, vitamin C drops, colodial silver, probiotics, whole food multivitamin, hand washing, avoiding crowds during peak illnesses, and lots of fresh air and exercise. We also do not do flu shots. To my knowledge there is no study done on influenza vaccinated people versus non-vaccinated and rates of getting the flu, so I can only share my own personal experiences. The friends I have who get vaccinated are the ones who get the flu while the non-vaccinated ones do not. I have two sisters with children. Both of then fully vaccinate their kids including the flu shot. Their kids are ALWAYS sick with colds, bronchitis, croup, regular flu, stomach viruses, allergies, etc. We do not vaccinate and my kids get maybe 2 colds a year and stomach virus every 2nd or 3rd year. We do homeschool, so my kids are exposed to less crowds of sick kids BUT so does one of my sisters and there is no difference in the amount of sicknesses her kids get and my other sister who's kids are in school. I do know there have been a few surveys/studies done and there was a vast difference in vaccinated and unvaccinated kids. Vaccinated kids got sick and had various learning/neurological problems A LOT more than unvaccinated kids. Here's a link:


I'm not a doctor. Just a mom who tries to stay informed with facts and do what I see works best in my own family. :) I also realize that NOT getting the flu shot does not guarantee we will not get the flu at some point......the same way that getting the flu shot doesn't guarantee someone won't get the flu. I'd just rather have overall healthier kids - which is what I've noticed in my family from avoiding vaccines. We're simply sick a lot less than the national average which is what I see as working. Hope everyone feels better soon!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I am sorry you are sick.. I hope you are on your way to recovery!

Things we do...

First, we do NOT get the flu shot. I follow all vaccination guidelines with exception of Guardisil and flu.

Daily basis.. wash hands, I clean with clorox, we each have our own toothpaste, drink a lot of water, eat a lot of fruit, also eat at least 1 singleyogurt daily and/or take a probiotic daily. My daughter takes vitamin supplements. We ALL take Zyrtec 24 hr daily all year long for allergies.

We hardly ever get sick but when we do, it is a doozy. If we feel something coming on or something "off" we start with Ziacam. Our daughter used to get sinus infections like clockwork in September and March. She has not had 1 infection since we started the Zyrtec routine and neither have we. Use a sinus rinse... we each have our own. I do believe this routine has kept us from getting sick at times. We have a sick room for the sick person and when the sick person is better, the room is aired out, cloroxed and everything washed.

I am in complete agreement with a previous poster.....DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE.

I am a regular substitute teacher and aroudna bunch of snotty nosed kids weekly and in 10 yrs I have never gotten anything except the stomach virus.

Feel better soon!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I love oil of oregano (I prefer capsules but one of my sons mixes the liquid in juice), olive leaf capsules, and thieves oil (on my feet). I also love vitamin D.

I would get some advice from an alternative health care provider on supplements.

Another tactic we use is to avoid sugars the minute we feel an illness coming on. I have been told by several alternative/integrative professionals that sugar suppresses your immune response, and it seems to hold true for our family.

We do not do the flu shot here.

I am not a healthcare provider of any type - this is my "mom" opinion.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Common sense - stay away from sick people if possible. Wash your hands with plain soap after blowing your nose - not antibacterial soap and not hand sanitizer. Eat well, get plenty of rest.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I'm sooo sorry you are sick!!!

washing hands frequently.
using Clorox wipes on door knobs, handles, etc. to prevent the spread of germs.
getting enough sleep. if you already have the gunk - ask your doctor about cough syrup with codeine to allow you to sleep.
eating well.
Drink WATER - lots of water to stay hydrated and flush out the system!!!

Hope you are feeling better soon!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I find that drinking a small glass of orange juice a few times a week helps keep the immunity levels where they need to be. Also getting a good night sleep ( I know thats crazy hard with our kids) helps as well. Finally anti bacterial soap and lotion as needed through out the day.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Handwashing, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces with Lysol or Chlorox surface cleaner or wipes - i.e. doorknobs, sink and toilet handles, remote control, phones, etc.

Toothbrushes get changed out after illnesses as well - like when my daughter had strep, and then now, I am just getting over some GI thing. Bedsheets and towels get changed out and washed too.

When we need to take our daughter out to play on the weekends and over holiday breaks to give her a chance to burn some energy off, we try to do it OUTSIDE - i.e. sledding, playing in the snow, etc (when she is healthy). Indoor play places, like at McDonald's, are just loaded with germs from other sick kids and I try to avoid them whenever possible.

Get plenty of sleep/rest and try to keep as stress-free as possible - stress and lack of sleep weakens your immune system.

Esberitox is a super-charged echinacea (sp?) supplement that I started taking at the start of a cold - also Zicam and Emergen-C. It's helped with making the symptoms less severe and getting it to clear up faster. It worked with my husband who had a bad one a couple of weeks ago.

We also all get flu vaccines every year before flu season hits!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

Vitamin C, hot tea and plenty of sleep.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

I haven't read all the responses but I agree with most of what I read and mostly they are the same. I do NOT get the flu vaccine and neither does anyone in my family. We do not get sick often at all. The only thing not mentioned is washing your clothes in Pinesol. I don't know why it helps but that is the only thing we've done differently and have not been really sick in years. Yes, normal pine smelling pinesol. No, your clothes do not come out smelling like a pine forest. I know it sounds weird, but it really helps. I ran out of it earlier and did not get any for about a week. My husband did not know. He got sick. No illnesses since we added back to our routine.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Vitamin D!!!!!! In the northern climates, the sun is not strong enough for 9 months out of the year to allow our bodies to manufacture enough vitamin D. So we take supplements and since we started, we are hardly ever sick. Vitamin D is being found to be a key vitamin for immune systems, bone health (can't absorb calcium without it), heart health and lots of other stuff (including beating the wintertime blues).

I also use the cart wipes EVERY time I go to the grocery store.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

First line of defense: The flu shot, for everyone, every year. Listen to Christy Lee, below -- she's an EMT so she should know. Even if you just had it, get your own shot as soon as you are able - the flu season this year will be a long and vicious one and you could get it again. Your husband and child need them too. Children are especially vulnerable to the most dangerous complications of flu. (And don't listen to anyone who says it "gives you the flu" etc. -- that is a total myth. Listen to your doctor instead.) You can still get the flu with a flu shot but the vaccine means the illness is much less severe if you do get it! I know that from experience.


Tons of handwashing. Keep hand sanitizer gel in the cars and in your purse and use liberally. Remember to wash or sanitize after grocery shopping, any other shopping, visiting your child's preschool, etc. Be sure your child washes her hands just before leaving preschool or leaving a play date.

When anyone is sick or even seems sick, I wipe down doorknobs and sink handles and spigots with Clorox wipes and if someone's definitely sick, I do it plenty more. (I just had a bad cold but the others didn't get it because of the wiping down and the next thing.....)

Isolate a sick person. When either my husband or I is sick, the sick one gets our bed and the well one sleeps on the couch. I think it really helps prevent couples from sharing illnesses. I also have the sick person use only one bathroom while the well folks use another. I also spray down the sick person's bathroom with Lysol daily. (If it's gastrointestinal illness, there is even more cleaning that goes on.) I change the sheets and pillowcases before we share a bed again, and I am glad to throw out pillows frequently and replace them -- yep, I buy new bed pillows if someone's been sick. You know those bed pillows are going to hold germs and viruses even with pillowcases on them.

The isolation also means no hugs or kisses for a few days, which my daughter just hates, but she's older than yours and able to understand the point!

Like someone said below -- do not share toothpastes. I throw out my toothbrush if I've been sick or I disinfect it.

Eating fruits and veggies helps over the long, long term but in the short term the best things are a ton of handwashing, frequent use of hand gel after being out in the world, and really just avoiding crowds -- I just don't go to the mall at all unless I get there in the middle of a weekday, for instance. I was in the mall on a weekend recently and it was heaving with crowds and tons of sneezing people and coughing kids -- I fled pretty quickly. Not worth it!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Handwashing is number one. Use hand cleaners or wipes when out and avoid touching doorknobs, elevator buttons escalator rails etc. You catch a virus from droplets from an infected person so three feet between you and other people when out. If you see a person with a cough or runny nose keep your distance. If a friend or relative has a sore throat or laryngitis this is usually the infectious period so try not to be around them. Taking things such as probiotics and DHA are great but they won't protect you from a virus if you are directly exposed. Only immunity protects you from infection . I do get a flu shot and one for my family. I have great success with Emergen-c supplements and zinc when I've been around active virus or Disneyland! Remember, handwashing!!! Feel better !

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Vaccines, hand washing (especially before eating and after being in germy places (malls, play areas, supermarket cart handles, etc)).
A daily vitamin to round out a balanced diet.
Drink plenty of water.
Try to get outside for some fresh air and sunshine as often as you can.
You might still get sick, but if you've given your body the tools it needs, it can fend off the illness better/faster.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Illness is just a part of life. Frequent hand washing, covering coughs/sneezes, and avoiding others who you know to be ill. A good diet, rest, exercise, fresh air. Otherwise there really isn't much else that can be done. Getting sick as a mom is tough! It's hard to care for yourself when you have others to care for.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Just the basics, vaccines, washing hands, keeping up with the wash and lysol everywhere. If we get sick we get sick, we do what we can, but we can not freak out over it to be honest.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

sounds like you don't do the flu shot.....that is a must to help prevent the flu....it doesn't cover the stomach flu but it will help. we also use alot of saline nose spray to wash the germs from our nose and bodies, i use to have sinus infections all the time and i haven't had a one for two years now!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

we all get the flu shot (not the flu mist). we keep lysol and clorox wipes all over the house. we all use handgel when out and about. i don't touch my face no matter what. i keep reminding my hubby and kids to do the same. every time i have gotten sick is when i got it from my kids or husband. i truly believe not touching your face makes a huge difference. kids get 500 mg vit c every day and now after reading the responses here, i will add D3 to them.



answers from Seattle on

Chiropractic care! Strengthens the immune system from its core. Vitamin d and opposite of others..no vaccines, especially flu shot. They temporarily weaken the immune system, leaving the body open to viruses. Some dirt is good, super clean freaks that sanitize every surface with disinfectants seem to be sicker than others to me. And oscillococcinum at the first sign of flu, shortens symptoms tremendously.



answers from Detroit on

we dont do anything special. my kids got sick tghe first year they were in preschool (part time 2 days a week). then they adjusted and were healthy.. this is the first year they are in public school full time and they have been sick quite a bit... 2 or 3 colds and one influenza. but this is normal .. as they are exposed to all the germs in the world their bodies learn to fight the germs..

The folks that say they never get sick.. are they really out in the world being exposed to germs.. or do they just stay home away from everyone??


answers from Grand Forks on

Vaccines (flu shot!!!), hand washing, rest, fresh air, exercise, multi-vitamins, good nutrition, fluids...



answers from Pittsburgh on

When I feel like my nose is going to give me trouble, I take (or increase) zinc. I was told that zinc only helps with the mucous membranes though, for what it is worth.

If you have a fever, your body is burning sugar and that's why you feel wiped. You should drink beverages with sugar at this time, whether it be a soft drink or juice to replace those sugars. You won't feel as wiped out.



answers from Chicago on

With the weather going up and down. Only one of my kids got the 4 day flu. The rest of us were spared. When we took him to the ped. she said it can last anywhere from 4- 10 days. Either people got stomach flu a fever or strep this holiday season. I am glad it was only a fever and not worse. I clean my house top to bottom with chemical free cleaner. I also do like the preschool and have my kids wash their hands when they come home before they play. This is the only time my son got sick mostly because of my husbands family and visiting them for Christmas. My son ended up getting a cold that turned into a fever. We don't do shots because when we did we all got sick from them. They say everyone's different and reacts differently. Also flu shots do not protect you from the stomach flu. Just eat healthy and take a break when you can.

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