7 Secrets for cold and flu prevention from doctors and nurses

Dec 1, 2015 at 12:00 a.m. ET
Image: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

Although colder weather heralds many wonderful things (hello, snow days!), this season can also elicit its fair share of dread — and the influx of cold and flu cases is to blame.

Unfortunately, as the temperature begins to drop, the number of people sniffling, sneezing, coughing, wheezing or generally suffering from a cold or flu-related affliction rises. Although this influx varies according to seasonal patterns around the globe, cold and flu season typically starts in late fall and peaks in mid-to-late winter.

For those of us in temperate climate zones, well, that's means we're in the thick of it. Since no one wants to spend scarf weather cooped up indoors — and since the flu is potentially life-threatening — we sought out insider advice from the men and women constantly fighting it off: doctors and nurses.

Here's what seven medical professionals had to say about precautions they take to ward off colds and the flu.

Be proactive

"Two of the things we try to do besides washing our hands and wearing gloves as much as possible are drink orange juice or [take] a good dose of Vitamin C, and premedicate if we start feeling bad. Our goal is to catch it before it catches us. Sick nursing is tough! Dealing with their own illness, patients have no sympathy for you." — Miranda S., ER nurse

Use holistic reinforcements

"So many of the nurses I work with, myself included, swear by using essential oils to help promote health and wellness in their own homes." — Crystal G., RN at assisted living facility

Make a preemptive doctor's appointment

"We've said it before and we'll say it again: get the flu vaccine annually. But in addition to receiving the vaccine, a key component of staving off a cold or the flu is responding to early symptoms and seeking health care from the onset." — Robert C., dialysis MD

Consider protective gear

"I take vitamin C daily, and I do not get vaccinated with the flu shot (I have my reasons). To minimize the chances my nurses will catch the cold or flu, I have all staff during flu season wear masks in [the] clinic — especially those who have not received the flu vaccine." — Angel W., dialysis clinic RN/home therapies program manager

Stock up on vitamin C

"Honestly, it's actually the constant exposure to these germs that make us more immune. But as far as advice on supplements, I recommend taking vitamin C and eating foods rich in vitamin C more often during cold and flu season. And, of course, getting your flu shot. As most people know, the flu shot isn't guaranteed to prevent the flu or even prevent against every strain, but it does lessen the effects and severity of flu symptoms as well as the length of time you are sick." — Kelli F., RN and care director at retirement and assisted living community

Stay well-rested

"I would say my biggest secret for cold and flu prevention is keeping my immune system boosted with plenty of rest. Like many other medical professionals, I also take supplements like zinc, vitamin C and echinacea to help keep my immune system strong. Other than that, use good common sense in interactions with others — don't expose yourself unnecessarily around symptomatic people, and if that is unavoidable, then good old-fashioned hand washing is crucial." — Sabrina O., RN and home health director

This post was brought to you by Clorox. Use their new online tool, Cold and Flu Pulse, to see if cold and flu conversations are going viral so you can take steps to help prevent it in the real world.

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8 Steps to prevent the flu without a shot