Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired?! Flu season can get the healthiest of dancers down, and we’re always more susceptible to sickness during times of high stress… hello tech week! Even though we can’t completely prevent ourselves from getting sick, there are certain things we can do to decrease our chances, and if those measures fail, there are simple ways to decrease the severity and length of most flu-season illnesses. Fear the Flu! The #1 goal is to prevent illnesses. Here are some ways to arm yourself against flu germs:
- Wash, wash,WASH your hands: According to the CDC, about 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch (um… barre work, anyone?). When partnering with someone, touch is inevitable, so washing before and after classes/rehearsals is imperative for dancers to stay well. To be most effective, wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds!. Use sanitizer whenever a sink or soap is not available. As I’m sure we all know, those subway pole germs can be the worst ;).
- EAT WELL! The body absorbs natural vitamins from food much more effectively than vitamin supplements. Supplements can be taken in addition to a healthy diet, but food should provide the majority of the vitamins your body needs.
- When you’re at the store, make a colorful shopping cart with only a small section for processed foods! Rule of thumb: eat the rainbow daily and you’ll be on the right track. Load up on your veggies and fruits to keep your immune system strong.
- Not sure if you’re eating well? The USDA offers SuperTracker, a free and very helpful tool. Supertracker (https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/default.aspx) has a great range of items but always start your search with the generic term for best results (i.e. bread vs. 7 grain split top bread).
- Hydrate: Most of the issues that dancers bring to me are a result of dehydration. Cramps, headaches, constipation, and dizziness are all most commonly caused by a lack of water. If you want to prevent sickness and dehydration, it’s a good idea to avoid drinking caffeinated beverages.
- Rest: If you listen to your body when you’re hungry or thirsty, doesn’t it make sense that your body also knows when you need rest? Avoid fighting your fatigue with caffeine whenever possible. Rest can mean a good night’s sleep, warm Epsom salt soak, or massage. Listen to your body; it knows what it needs.
- Soak up the sunshine: Vitamin D deficiency increases risk for flu and respiratory infections. We coat our bodies in sunscreen containing lotions and make-ups to protect from cancer, but a little sun is our best and primary source of vitamin D. Although some foods are fortified to contain vitamin D and wild-caught fish contains some naturally, we only need about 15-20 minutes of sunlight on our hands, face, and neck a few times a week to reach our vitamin D needs and help keep that immunity strong.
Feel the mucous moving in? Here are some tips for kicking those flu-season bugs out:
- “Let food be thy medicine”: Hippocrates knew what he was talking about! Again, eat those fruits and veggies! Blueberries have the most active antioxidants. If you truly can’t stand eating them, try mixed fruit/veggie juices and smoothies. Another great source of antioxidants is green tea, but limit yourself to a cup or two during the day since it’s caffeinated.
- Echinacea: Some herbal teas and cold-fighting supplements include Echinacea, which many believe helps reduce the symptoms and length of colds when taken at first sign of symptoms.
- Zinc: Zinc is found in whole grains, eggs, nuts, lean meats, fish, oysters, and is also available in supplements. It is also thought to reduce the length of illness.
- Anise seeds: Anise seeds have been shown to help clear congestion. Adding some crushed seeds to your tea is an easy way to to reap the benefits!
- Fennel: Fennel acts as an expectorant to help push out that flemmy cough and clear congestion. It can be eaten raw, roasted, or drunk in tea. A delicious tea with fennel is Yogi Tea’s Throat Comfort and it can be found in most grocery stores!
- Release your sinuses: Dairy is not the best source of vitamins and thickens mucous, so steer clear of milk and cheese to give your sinuses a break when fighting the flu. If you’re going to take decongestants, don’t try them for the first time on a performance day. A lot of people experience dizziness and fatigue from certain cold and flu medicines. Looking for a more organic relief? A great natural tool is the netty pot – worshipped by allergy sufferers everywhere!. Make sure you follow the directions carefully and whatever you do, don’t use tap water (distilled is a better choice)! You don’t want to pour live bacteria up the nostrils! A hot and steamy shower is always another safe and simple helper.
- Sore throat or cough?: That warm salt water gargle you hated as a kid truly does help relieve the swelling and pain. Warm herbal tea or warm lemon/ginger water with honey can also work wonders for soothing a sore throat. Ginger helps clear those sinuses and is a natural anti-nausea. Lemon helps add in more of that flu-fighting vitamin C too!
- Hydrate: Yes, we’re back to water again! Fevers, vomiting, and diarrhea drain your body’s hydration stores – drinking constant liquids are a must. Decongestants work wonders but they also dehydrate you. Herbal tea is a great way to switch it up and warm up while also getting extra catechins or antioxidants.
- What’s the best way to check in on your hydration? Yes, we’re about to go there… a simple glance in the toilet. You want a light yellow color without a strong odor. The darker and smellier the tinkle, the more dehydrated you are. Be aware that many vitamin supplements darken your urine color, and certain foods (i.e. asparagus) often produce an odor.
We can’t always prevent the flu, but I hope these tips and tricks will keep you healthy and dancing through flu season!Tia Feather Health and Wellness Coordinator