When the seasons change and temperatures shift, you may be more likely to encounter certain viruses, including the flu and the common cold. And if you have seasonal allergies, pollen and mold from plants can aggravate your immune system.

The good news is there are steps you can take to stay well, so you can welcome the new season instead of sniffling through it.

Take time for yourself.

The start of a new season can bring about schedule changes that might leave you overwhelmed — and more susceptible to sickness. Shuffling kids to spring sports practice or attending lots of seasonal events can leave you with less time to relax, exercise or eat right. The added stress can also slash your body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells, putting you at greater risk for catching something.

That’s why it’s worth finding ways to unwind every day, like meditating or reading quietly before bed. Even a few minutes can make you feel more relaxed.

Add more movement to your day.

Being active helps flush illness-causing bacteria out of the airways and strengthens infection-fighting white blood cells. Plus, it can help keep stress in check.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of brisk exercise per week, along with resistance training twice a week. It can be difficult to fit regular exercise into an already busy day, so look for ways to be active in shorter bursts — plan a power walk after lunch, or have an impromptu dance party with your kids after dinner.

Also, if you usually work out outdoors, think about hitting the gym or taking indoor classes during seasonal shifts. Higher pollen levels or mold from leaves on the ground can trigger an allergic response and cause congestion.

Fight your exposure to germs.

Even if you wash your hands regularly, there’s no guarantee others are doing the same. Wipe down surfaces at home and at work with a disinfectant, paying special attention to germ-prone areas like doorknobs, phones, keyboards and remotes.

And if a bug is going around, see if you can take advantage of any work-from-home or flexible work policies to avoid being in contact with others who may be sick around the office or on public transportation.

Fill up on protective foods.

Eating more of these power picks can help you feel your best.

  • Brightly colored fruits and vegetables. They serve up vitamins C, A, and folate, which all help fortify your immune system. Try to buy local produce when possible, since foods picked and consumed when they are fresh tend to pack more nutrients.
  • Fatty fish and eggs. Both are rich in vitamin D, which activates the immune system when germs invade.
  • Nuts and seeds. Snack on them for a healthy dose of vitamin E, an antioxidant that also works to keep infections at bay.
  • Plain yogurt. The good bacteria in foods like yogurt can boost your gut health. Follow these tips for more ways to keep your gut healthy.

Make a serious effort to sleep better.

Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Even falling short for a few days lowers your defenses against germs and makes you more susceptible to getting sick. If you have trouble sticking to a bedtime, set an alarm on your phone to remind you it’s time to start winding down for the evening.

Try to keep a consistent sleep routine even if the seasonal shift changes your schedule. When things get hectic, streamline other tasks so you can still get to bed on time. Prep healthy meals on the weekend or hire a cleaning service, so you don’t have to tackle cooking or chores on weeknights.

Looking for ways to improve your sleep habits? Find helpful tips for better sleep here.

With a little more focus on self-care, you can stay a step ahead of illness-causing germs and be healthy year-round.

Posted: March 21, 2018