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The Doctor Is In: Dr. Travis Stork’s Tips to Stay Flu-Free

Written on January 25, 2013 at 9:00 am , by

Fear not the neti pot–really! (Photo courtesy Arm & Hammer)

Maybe you got the flu shot, maybe you forgot–oops! Regardless some simple things like getting enough sleep and following a healthy diet can go a long way in keeping you in top shape this winter. To help keep your sick days from racking up, we chatted with Dr. Travis Stork of The Doctors as he teams up with Arm & Hammer Simply Saline for their latest campaign on natural, drug-free ways to stay healthy this season.

Whether you got the flu shot or not, what are some things we all should be doing to keep the flu away?

The winter months are really the time to practice those healthy habits we talk about all the time. If you’re not getting enough sleep, not eating well and not hydrating, the chances of you battling a cold or the flu is higher than if you are doing these things. Since nutrition is an important part of staying healthy, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to make sure your body is getting the vitamins and nutrients it needs to function at its best. Supplements have never really been shown to have the same benefits as whole foods, so eat up!

I am also a fan of nasal irrigation to hydrate nasal passages and alleviate congestion that tends to occur in the winter. I’ve partnered with Arm & Hammer Simply Saline because they make nasal sprays that are easy to use and can be taken anywhere I go, especially airplanes where germs love to linger! We want our nasal membranes moist, as opposed to dry and friable, because hydrated membranes act as an extra protective barrier when a virus tries to invade our nasal passages. Viruses can also enter through our eyes and mouth, so be sure to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching these vulnerable areas.

How can you tell the difference between getting the flu and just having a cold?

A cold primarily affects the neck up with congestion, a runny nose, sore throat and a slight productive cough caused by postnasal drip. The flu makes you feel miserable all over. Fever, body aches, headache, dry cough–you name it. About 36,000 people die of flu complications each year. So while a cold is usually just a nuisance, the flu is something to take seriously.

If  you’re sick and need to get better fast–is medicine the best route to go?

It’s easy to get into the habit of overloading on over-the-counter medicine to relieve symptoms, and while it may help sometimes, if you overdo it too much you may experience some side effects. To relieve congestion, your best bet is either a saline nasal spray or neti pot. I use saline nasal mists every day, even when I’m not sick to flush out potential pollutants and allergens. I also love warm tea with honey, which is not only soothing, honey acts as a natural cough suppressant. Last, a nice steamy shower can benefit irritated sinuses and airways.

Neti pots can be a little intimidating. Are they painful to use?

I like neti pots because they naturally remove the mucus from your nose. They are a bit more time consuming and messy to use than sprays, so it’s best to use them in the shower or in the privacy of your own bathroom. They shouldn’t be painful to use, but if the concentration of salt is too high, it can certainly sting. A perk of the Simply Saline neti pots is that the saline packets use Arm & Hammer baking soda to help reduce that stinging sensation.

More from FITNESS: 5 More Tips to Fend Off the Flu