Maybe you've got a big deadline at work. Or perhaps your long-planned dream vacation is just around the corner. No matter what's ahead on your calendar, one thing is clear: You can't afford to let a cold or the flu slow you down.
So don't sit idly by. Get a flu shot, of course, but you can also do more. Try this eight-step plan to keep healthy so you don't miss out on the action.
No. 1: Wash Your Hands
There's no mystery about how cold and flu viruses spread. Someone who's sick sneezes in their hand and then touches the telephone, the keyboard, or a kitchen glass. You can pick up the germ when you touch that object, even hours later.
So wash your hands often. If you can't get to a sink, rub them with a hand sanitizer that's got alcohol in it.
No. 2: Don't Cover Your Sneezes and Coughs With Your Hands
Do your part to keep germs away from your family and friends. Viruses cling to your bare hands, so don't use them to muffle your coughs and sneezes.
When you feel one coming, use a tissue, then throw it away. If you don't have one with you, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.
No. 3: Don't Touch Your Face
Cold and flu viruses enter your body through your eyes, nose, and mouth. Teach your kids not to touch their faces -- and follow your own advice.
No. 4: Do Aerobic Exercise Regularly
Aerobic exercise is any activity that gets your heart pumping. It helps increase your body's natural virus-killing cells.
No. 5: Eat Foods Containing Phytochemicals
"Phyto" means plants, and the natural chemicals in them give the vitamins in food a supercharged boost. So put away the vitamin pill and eat dark green, red, and yellow veggies and fruits.
No. 6: Don't Smoke
Heavy smokers get more severe and frequent colds. Even being around smoke hurts the immune system, your body's defense against germs.
Smoke dries out the passages in your nose. It affects your cilia -- the delicate hairs that line your nose and lungs and help sweep away cold and flu viruses. Experts say just one cigarette can stop them from working for as long as 30 to 40 minutes.
No. 7: Cut Back on Drinking Alcohol
Heavy drinking curbs the immune system. It can make you more likely to get infections as well as complications. Alcohol also dehydrates your body.
No. 8: Relax
Your germ-defense system will appreciate it. There's evidence that your immune system revs up when you de-stress.
One way to relax: train yourself to picture an image you find pleasant or calming. Do this 30 minutes a day for several months.