Every year, many of us go through the same ordeal, trying to rid ourselves of some nasty cold or flu that’s slowing us down and keeping us home from work. Cold or Flu is an infectious disease caused by influenza virus. Sometimes it seems as though we haven’t learned a thing from all the times we’ve gotten sick before. However, there are a few steps and precautions we can take that can at least reduce our frequency of illness. Let’s take a look at how to avoid colds and flu.

1.) Get Plenty of Sleep

Not getting enough sleep compromises the immune system, leaving the body more open to infection. However, this doesn’t mean that simply squeezing in 8 hours worth of sleep will have some type of magical effect. Some people are able to get all the quality sleep they need in less time, while others can lay there for the entire night and receive little benefit. The body needs quality sleep, more than quantity.

2.) Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise increases the amount of NK (natural killer) cells in the body. Once their levels have gone up, they will remain up there for approximately 36 hours, hunting down foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. Keep in mind, however, that there is a point of diminishing returns. If you exercise too heavily or too often, there’s a chance that you might actually lower your NK levels. So basically, you need to exercise regularly, but moderately.

3.) Drink Lots of Water

Doctors usually recommend around 8 glasses of water per day to maintain proper function of the kidneys and flush out accumulated toxins. However, if you’re already sick or exercising rather heavily, your needs will go up and you’ll have to drink more than that to achieve the same benefit. Remember that when you have a cold, dehydration dries up your mucus. This makes it harder to get rid of and more vulnerable to invading bacteria. Additionally, when you are exercising, you’re sweating out much of the water you have already consumed. Be sure to take all of this into consideration.

4.) Maintain a Balanced Diet

As much as you like those hamburgers and frozen pizzas, they’re not doing anything to keep you healthy. Your body needs proper nutrition to fend off viruses and bacteria, just as any army needs proper food and fuel to hold off an invasion. Your good health begins with what you eat, so be sure to eat lots of colorful greens for their antioxidants, along with plenty of foods rich in vitamin C and zinc.

5.) Take Vitamins and Probiotics

The reason for this is primary because, in the real world, it isn’t always easy to get all the fresh fruits and vegetables our bodies need for optimal health. Additionally, our food’s nutritional value is depleted some during processing. Taking a daily multivitamin is the best way to make up the difference.

Probiotics are actually friendly bacteria that are found naturally in the intestines. They’re part of the body’s natural defense system and studies have found that taking probiotic supplements can help bolster its ability to fight off viruses and harmful bacteria.

6.) Cut Back on Stress and Be Happy

This can be very difficult in this fast-paced world we live in, but the payoff is priceless, in terms of your good health. Negative mental states and stress are known to directly affect the body’s hormonal balance. Chemicals like the stress hormone cortisol will actually depress the immune system when levels of it are high enough. Find things to love about life and activities to enjoy that will keep you in good spirits. You might even consider meditation. Stay on the bright side of life and your body will thank you with much better health.

7.) Wash Your Hands

This is something everyone should already do, but there are still a great many people out there who rarely wash their hands at all, even when it matters the most. If you’re sick, by all means, spare everyone else the germs. In any case, remember that not everyone else will be thinking that way and every door knob and shopping cart you touch has probably been handled by dozens of people in just a few short hours. If you’re not regularly near a sink with a constant supply of antibacterial soap, consider carrying around a small bottle of liquid hand sanitizer.

8.) Protect Your Eyes

Finally, many people are not aware of how easily germs can get into your body through the eyes. If someone sneezes close to your face, it’s highly likely that their cold or flu germs will be absorbed into your eyes before you even have a chance to breathe them in. The only natural barrier you’ve got up there is your eyelids and lashes, so it might be wise to start wearing some type of glasses (prescription or sunglasses) during cold/flu season. Otherwise, squinting in crowded areas or when around sick people might help reduce the exposed surface area to some degree.

Of course, there’s no way to guarantee that you won’t ever get sick, even if you follow every piece of advice mentioned here. However, you’ll have a distinct advantage over people who just don’t know how to avoid colds and flu. The easiest way to remember all this when everyone else is getting sick is to just remind yourself to put only good stuff into your body, make every effort to keep it clean and give it the rest that it needs. Your immune system will take it from there.