7 Tips to Help You Survive the Winter Flu Season

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I live in the city of Montreal and it’s -18 Celsius outside right now, me and my dog are indoors cuddled up on the couch trying to stay warm.  I won’t be going out tonight as half the people I know are sick with the flu or some nasty bug that they can’t shake. I’m trying to stay healthy this winter but the odds are against me as being a nurse, my work environment consists of every respiratory illness going around this season and even the hospital staff have been affected.  Usually I catch a bug or two but It’s been three months and I haven’t come down with anything yet. I just added a few extra things to my morning routine and so far it has made a huge difference!


1. Sea Salt Nasal Spray

This is something you do when you first get up in the morning as there is a lot of gunk and bacteria that has built up in the nasal passages during the night. The goal is to flush it out so that it doesn’t enter further into your respiratory system.  You would be surprised what can colonize in your nose.  Unless you are sick or have active allergies, once a day is best in order not to flush out the protective antibodies in your nose that also help fight off the pathogens.

1. First blow your nose.

2. Place 2 or so spays in each nostril or as directed on the container.

3. Blow your nose again.


 2. Hydrogen Peroxide or Sea Salt Swish and Gargle.

Again I do this only in the morning after I brush my teeth. This helps wash out all of the bacteria and residue in your mouth that has built up overnight.  I like to use Hydrogen Peroxide when I feel I may be coming down with something or when I have been around others who are sick, I use sea salt the remainder of the time.  The key is to use warm water for the gargle rinse to help loosen the secretions. * For hydrogen peroxide, use only for short duration, no longer than one week as it can make your teeth sensitive and it can erode your enamel over time.

Also, if you don’t want to use salt or Hydrogen Peroxide, a warm water gargle will have benefits too.  If you feel like you are coming down with something or are actively sick, you can do this 2 times a day.  It’s especially good for upper respiratory infections, such as a sore throat.

  • Hydrogen Peroxide Swish and Gargle: What you need is 3% hydrogen peroxide which is the standard sold at your local pharmacy.  Just mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water and gargle for 20-30 seconds and spit out.  Then take a new sip and swish around in your mouth for 5 seconds and spit out.   Yes, your tongue will get a little foamy.


  • Sea Salt Swish and Gargle: Use ¼ to ½ teaspoon of sea salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water.  Gargle for 20-30 seconds and spit, repeat if desired.  Take a new sip and swish around in your mouth for 5-10 seconds, repeat is desired.  You can use table salt instead of sea salt if you don’t have any.


3. Brush Your Tongue

When you first get up in the morning to brush your teeth, you can also brush your tongue with your

toothbrush and toothpaste. Most people have a buildup of residue on their tongue that consists of mold, bacteria, dust, and other things you would rather not swallow.  If you sleep with your mouth open this situation can be a lot worse.  You can give it a gentle brushing, do not scrub or scrape.


4. Take Good Care of your Toothbrush

It is not recommended you keep your toothbrush laying around the sink or tucked away in a plastic travel container, this is a breeding ground for germs.  It is best to place it in a cup and in a cabinet where it can air dry properly.

If you are sick, throw your toothbrush away after you get better to prevent re-infection or disinfect it. Microscopic residue and bacteria that came off your teeth can colonize on your toothbrush only to re-enter your mouth the next time you brush your teeth.You can pour some hydrogen peroxide or apple cider vinegar on top of your toothbrush over the sink and then put it away safely to let it air dry.


5. Keep Your Hands off Your Face

You would be surprised how many people put their hands all over their face throughout the day, including myself. It’s a surefire way to introduce unwelcome occupants into our body.  You may catch yourself rubbing your eyes, biting your nails, or even resting your chin on your hands close to your mouth. Although this seems innocent, it can make you sick. Most of these behaviors are habits we are not even aware we are doing.


6. Stick to Good Old Hand-Washing

Some people have asked me about using hand sanitizer and as a general rule I prefer traditional hand washing if there is a choice between the two.  But in some cases if hand sanitizer is all you have, it’s better than nothing.  However, for daily use hand sanitizer is too caustic to your hands, some people have allergies, and I have major concerns about chemicals entering your blood stream after extended use.

Remember hand sanitizer kills 99.9 percent of germs within a few seconds.  Over time this will dry out you skin and cause injury. Further, some hand sanitizers contain an antibiotic called triclosan or triclocarban which can pose unnecessary risks and might be a hazard to human health including hormone disruption and weakened immune system.

I want to emphasize the quantity and quality of good hand washing.  Washing your hands for 20 seconds while creating a good lather that goes on the front and back of your hands and scrubbing under the nails, as it’s the part of the hands that can contain the most germs, this is the part that often gets overlooked.  This is especially important if you wear have long nails, fake nails, or a shellac coating.  If your hands get very dry especially in the winter, make sure to put good quality hand cream or organic oil so that they don’t dry out and crack.


7. Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Sugar has been known to directly impair your immune system, wreak havoc on your health, and feed cancer cells.  One study published by The American Society for Clinical Nutrition showed the immune system was significantly weakened for 5 hrs. after participants consumed 100 grams of sugar in the form of glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and orange juice.

When researchers examined participants blood under the microscope they noticed that the neutrophils (a type of white blood cell important to fighting off infections) had a decreased ability to wrap around bacteria to destroy it.  On the other hand, participants who went on a sugar fast for 36-60 hrs. had a significant increase in immune function (1).

I love sugar and I have been struggling with a sugar addiction all my life.  The times in my life that I have embarked on a reduced sugar diet, were the times in my life that I felt the best and I never got sick.  I know that for me there is a direct link to sugar and my immune system.

It’s a hard habit to kick because it’s in all the foods I love, this includes, pasta, bread, juice, chocolate, ice cream, etc.  However, I have done a good job reducing my sugar intake and it has made a huge difference in my life over the last few years. I know that if you reduce your sugar you will see a difference in how you feel and your immune system will be happy!




  1. Albert Sanchez JL, Reeser HS, Lau PY, et al. Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. Am J Clin Nutr 26, No. 11 (Nov 1973): 1180-1184. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract
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