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How to Stay Healthy During Cold and Flu Season: Top Tips for Avoiding Sickness

Facial tissues in a box and on a table with a mug and pair of glasses

Trying to avoid getting sick?

If you have a family, you know how long cold and flu season can last! By the time one virus runs its course through the family, someone is bringing home something new to share. Here are my tried-and-true methods to avoid getting whichever bug my family brings home! While this is not an extensive list by any means, these are the methods I regularly use in my household to keep my family well. 

Nutrition and lifestyle choices are always your first line of defense, but it isn’t always possible once your family leaves the house. Remember, by eating nutritious food and choosing to wash hands, prioritize sleep and get plenty of fresh air every day, you can help boost your immune system so it is better able to fight off whatever comes it’s way!

Sick woman sleeps on bed with pillows in fetal position

Isolate yourself (or your sick family member)

This isn't always possible, especially when you have little ones, but I will gladly give up my bed to not catch what my spouse brings home.

Or I will have my kids stay in their rooms and let me know what they need.

This minimizes the chances of them sharing their illness with me or each other.

If you have multiple kids, you know how annoying it is to have to wait for the illness to run through the entire family!

Isolation doesn’t have to mean pandemic-level isolation. Because my kids are older, the sick ones will happily stay in their room. Especially if someone brings home a stomach bug! When my spouse brings home a bug, I give him the bedroom and happily sleep in the guest room until the bug has ran it’s course.

A packet of powdered charcoal with a wooden spoon

Activated Charcoal

One of my go-to supplements, especially if the stomach flu is flying around (where are my elementary teachers and parents at??) is activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal can work to absorb viruses and other pathogens. However, you need to be mindful of whether you use it and when as it can absorb other things, too, such as medications you may be taking. It is not a proven method of treating or preventing stomach bugs, but it may reduce diarrhea for some people. My personal experience has been that I have been able to avoid catching it when my kids brought it home since I started using it.

Activated charcoal is commonly utilized in medical settings to treat drug overdoses or as an emergency anti-poison remedy. It is thought to offer several other benefits, including less gas and flatulence, lower cholesterol levels, and improved kidney function.

A mug of bone broth being held on a table

Bone Broth

Bone broth is beneficial for many reasons and I use it to help prevent illness. I also give it to my family when they are sick to help get more nutrition into their bodies when they aren't feeling well.

Bone broth is different from regular broth in that it has more minerals and collagen due to how it is prepared and how much longer the bones are in the water to create the broth.

It feels comforting if your throat is sore or if solid food doesn't sound good. You can easily add beneficial herbs and spices such as turmeric or lemongrass to make it even more delicious.

Bone broth is a good option if you are dealing with not keeping food down because it is easily digested and, to be honest, won't make a huge mess if it comes back up. It contains naturally-occurring electrolytes, including sodium, magnesium, and potassium and is a source of fluid, making it an excellent option for staying hydrated.

Elderberries growing on a branch


Elderberry is a mainstay for me during cold and flu season. I take it preventatively and then, if I do feel something coming on, I will increase my dosing until I'm feeling better.

While you can purchase gummies, they usually have added sugar, but are better than nothing!

I like to make elderberry syrup, which is so simple and contains rose hips (vitamin C!) and raw honey (naturally antiviral and antibacterial). Full disclosure: my kids never liked taking elderberry syrup, but they also didn't grow up with cough syrup and elixir medicines from my childhood (and yours!).

You can also find elderberry as a supplement in pill form or I like to use the Zand lozenges as well. These are typically the form my older kids take now since they can take them to go.

Oranges and 2 glasses of orange juice

Anything Citrus

To be honest, this is mostly because it is palatable to my family. If you've ever had a raw, sore throat, you know this may not feel so good.

But my family is more likely to drink orange juice all day than to take a Vitamin C supplement or eat an extra serving of veggies. 

Fortunately, oranges are in season for us during cold and flu season so we eat plenty of them. When illness strikes, I head to the store and pick up some quality orange juice knowing that they will all drink it, whether they are ill or not. 

You can also find herbal teas rich in Vitamin C which is another great option if you want the benefit of Vitamin C without the acidity and potential discomfort from an orange juice. 

What are your go-to foods and techniques for preventing getting sick? Share them below!

All content of this blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this blog.

Kelly Sherman, MS, NC, CGP, CPT, is a licensed nutritionist specializing in empowering women to reclaim their health by cutting through misinformation and ditching the diet culture. She has a master’s degree in nutrition and is degreed in exercise science as well as a certified personal trainer. With over 20 years of experience in the field, she combines the best of both nutrition and exercise sciences to best help her clients reach their potential. To nourish is to flourish!


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