An illustration of greenery

Every late fall and early winter, my sister and I take turns telling each other, “I think I might be getting sick.” We laugh about it, but we have also traded illnesses back and forth all winter for years.

Sometimes these little nuisances (a stuffy nose in the morning, a slightly sore throat, an annoying but unproductive cough) disappear as the day goes on. When they stick around, however, I pay attention to what my body is telling me and take care to get a little extra rest.

I pay attention to what my body is telling me and take care to get a little extra rest.

My mom and grandmothers have always given me several (almost) guaranteed tricks to boost my immune system and avoid sickness. Every time I feel something coming on, I break them out of the vault to help avoid getting sick. Here are a few natural remedies to avoid getting sick this holiday season: 

Gargle warm saltwater.

My grandmama swears by warm saltwater for almost anything you can think of. As a child, if any of us bit the inside of our mouths, had a sore throat or had congestion, it was her go-to solution.

She’d mix up a spoonful of table salt with hot water and let it cool off a little as the salt dissolved. Then, we would stand at the kitchen sink gargling and spitting until the whole glass was gone. Not only does this provide relief for a sore throat, it also helps flush out the virus!

Drink more water.

Most of the time, even those of us who think we are drinking enough water are not even close. One of the best things you can do when you start to feel under the weather, whether it’s a headache, cough or sore throat, is up your intake of water.

Water will help replace any fluids or electrolytes you’ve lost if you are running a fever, loosen congestion in your chest and head and assist in flushing illness from your body. Dehydration is also one of the top causes of a headache, so upping your fluids will help alleviate the pain in your head as well.

Take zinc.

I was skeptical when my mom came home one day with zinc lozenges and unwrapped one for me. However, within a day or two, the cold symptoms that would previously linger for a week or two were completely gone. Now, I find I can avoid a cold entirely if I start taking zinc the moment I notice a sore throat, stuffy nose or sinus headache.

Get extra sleep.

It seems plain to say, but an overworked, stressed-out body cannot function the way it needs to in order to stay healthy or get over illness. Consistently not getting enough sleep (experts suggest between seven and nine hours every night for adults) will lead to a depleted immune system.

When you feel yourself getting sick, going to bed even 30 minutes earlier can help you avoid sickness and get over an illness quicker. My mom always put me in bed earlier when I felt like I was getting sick, and I have continued to do the same for myself as an adult.

Sickness doesn’t have to be inevitable around the holiday season. Though people around you may have colds, coughs or the flu, you can avoid sickness by listening to your body, slowing down and taking a little extra care of yourself during the season.

Image via Sara Zin, Darling Issue No. 12

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