Cold Season

6 Simple Steps to a Sick-Proof Spring — Nip Viruses in the Bud

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Now that spring is finally here, the last thing we want is to be sidelined by a cold, the flu, or COVID-19 as we emerge from winter hibernation. Fortunately, we’ve found the best strategies to shore up your immune system. Use these tips to prevent a spring cold and other infections as best you can. Enjoy the season to its fullest!

Scoop up some local honey.

To outsmart spring allergies and cold-like symptoms, try a daily “dose” of local honey, suggests Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, author of Radical Longevity (Buy from Amazon, $24.99). In a 2011 study, Finnish scientists found folks who enjoyed birch pollen honey during birch pollen season cut their symptoms by 60 percent and used half as many antihistamines as those who skipped honey.

Why does this work? When bees collect nectar, their bodies get covered in pollen that ends up in honey. And when you consume that trace amount of local pollen daily, it builds immunity to allergens in your area through gradual exposure. Simply savor a spoonful of raw local honey with oatmeal, toast, or fruit daily.

Take your thyme.

Enjoy a little thyme daily, and you’ll armor your immune system against spring colds, flu, and COVID. That’s what researchers believe, because the herb contains a wealth of nutrients, including vitamins A and C, copper, iron, and manganese.

Better yet, the herb’s thymol boosts virus-fighting immune cells while lowering the potency of invaders, as shown in a 2013 study.

Try adding 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme (or 1⁄4 teaspoon dried) to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then drizzle over steamed veggies.

Hang a wreath.

Like to spruce up your space for spring by hanging a floral wreath? Great news: The workout you get from a half-hour of decorating or spring cleaning boosts your ability to fend off respiratory infections by 43 percent, a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests. Researchers found the benefit in people who were physically active five days a week (walks and bike rides count too!), and say even brief bouts of exercise spur an uptick in virus-attacking immune cells.

Plan a silly prank.

Search “practical jokes” on YouTube and you’ll do more than get inspiration for tricking your friends and loved ones — you’ll ward off a spring cold. Scientists at California’s Loma Linda University say just anticipating a mirthful experience boosts human growth hormone levels by 87 percent. That’s key, since research shows the hormone increases antibodies that destroy viruses.

Push up your sleeves.

Exposing your face, hands, and forearms to 20 minutes of sunlight daily spurs production of vitamin D. Why is this important? According to Boston University experts, low levels of vitamin D are linked to more severe COVID-19 and other infections. What’s more, a 2018 study found that vitamin D helps regulate immune system function and encourages white blood cells to activate against viruses.

Sip this refreshing drink to fend off viral invaders.

Looking for an immunity boost that’s tasty, too? Try these sweet cucumber thyme refreshers!

Ingredients:

  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs + additional for garnish
  • 3⁄4 cup of sugar
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • Lemon-flavored seltzer water
  • Sliced cucumber (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a pot, heat the first three ingredients with 3⁄4 cup water over medium heat.
  2. Cook until sugar dissolves, two minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to low, then simmer for five minutes. Cool, then discard the thyme and lemon.
  4. Divide syrup among four glasses; fill with seltzer. If desired, garnish with cucumber and thyme. Serves four.
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