Preventing Illness during Cold & Flu Season

For people living with HIV, cold and flu season isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s a very risky time of year because opportunistic infections seem to lurk everywhere. There are ways to stay healthy during winter that do not involve isolating yourself. You just have to diligently practice good health habits.

Exercise Good Hygiene to Keep Germs at Bay

The #1 way to prevent catching something during cold and flu season is to reduce microbial pathogens on your person…that means washing your hands thoroughly and frequently.

Proper hand washing entails:

  • Use of antibacterial soap
  • Vigorous rubbing/scrubbing for 30 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” or ”Your ABCs” to keep the time)
  • Rinsing with lukewarm water

Best practice involves patting dry and using the paper towel to touch door handles when exiting.

Hand sanitizer is NOT a substitute for hand washing. In fact, overuse can dry your skin, causing cracks and peeling that increase vulnerability for infection. Hand sanitizer is best for when soap and water washing isn’t available.

Ways to Boost Your Immune System

In addition to excellent hygiene, you can prevent winter illness by providing your body the nutrition and care it needs for optimal immune function:

  • Sufficient quality sleep—seven to eight hours every night
  • Exercise—the increase in body temperature and heart rate help rid the body of toxins and creates an “artificial fever” to fight off any possible infection
  • Water—at least 32 oz./day to help flush toxins from your body
  • Nutrient-rich foods—to the greatest extent possible, eat a variety of fresh (or frozen) fruits and vegetables to provide the essential vitamins and minerals and trace nutrients your body needs for immune function
  • Supplements—for individuals with a compromised immune system, supplementation is recommended. Talk to your primary care provider to learn more about what supplements and/or multivitamins are best suited for your needs.

Most immune-boosting strategies are common-sense lifestyle choices. For most people with HIV, they are sufficient to lower your risk for catching colds, flu or other infections. Your primary care provider may have other tips or instructions tailored to your unique health needs. If you do not have a primary care physician, please contact us to establish care at our clinic.