10 Ways to Avoid the Cold and Flu in (and out of) the Firehouse

  November 16, 2016

It’s that time of year again when the common cold and flu begins being passed from one person to the next. Each year the common cold affects the average person two times, and can affect the fire rescue athlete even more.  The sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and runny nose leave you wanting to curl up under the bed covers. To avoid this misery, prevention is the best cure. So with over 200 mutating cold-causing viruses floating around, what’s a fire rescue athlete to do to avoid getting sick? While in our profession it can be hard to dodge every germ, there are proactive ways to boost your immune system and help prevent catching a cold or the flu.  Take a look at these 10 ways:

  1. Wash Hands Frequently.  One of the most effective ways to prevent colds and the flu is simply washing your hands properly and frequently. Wash your hands and encourage those around you to do the same. Most cold viruses are spread through direct contact. Shaking hands and touching doorknobs, keyboards, and telephones are all easy ways to catch germs. Wash hands as often as possible, scrubbing with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. Keep hand sanitizer available for when hand washing is not possible.
  2. Wipe Down Germy Areas.  It’s common sense not to shake hands or get near a sick person but we as EMTs, Paramedics and Firefighters have no choice.  We all know that we will inevitably be in contact with ill people at some time throughout our shift.    To reduce exposures and spreading germs it’s imperative to properly wipe down equipment and rigs often.  Don’t be afraid to thoroughly wipe down the firehouse as well.   Wipe down germy areas — light switches, doorknobs, the phone, computer keyboard, and your TV remote — with your favorite cleaning product. Minimizing exposure to germs can help prevent colds and the flu.
  3. Drink Plenty of Fluids.  General good health practices keep your body strong and ready to fend off cold germs and the flu virus and this especially includes drinking plenty of water. In fact, one recent study found that staying hydrated may boost a particular immune response to enable your body to better fight the viruses. Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of fluids, especially water, and by avoiding caffeinated drinks. Shoot for six to eight glasses of water per day, more if you consume caffeinated beverages.
  4. Exercise to Strengthen Your Immunity.  Exercise not only downward dog stretchmakes you perform your job better as a fire rescue athlete, but it also boosts your immune system.  Additionally, warding off extra weight is important for overall health, particularly when it comes to preventing colds and flu. A recent study found that overweight and obese people were more likely to fall ill or be injured.  Not only does exercise (need a workout, click here) improve the circulation of white blood cells throughout your body, but it has been shown to increase the production of natural killer T cells, which are essential for maintaining an optimum immune response. The amount of exercise required to obtain an immune boost is relatively low, 20 minutes of brisk walking 4-5 times per week has been shown to significantly improve the body’s immune response. This is also a good opportunity to get a little bit of sunshine to stimulate Vitamin D production.
  5. Get Plenty of Sleep.   This can be difficult for the fire rescue athlete especially when the tones go off numerous times throughout the night.  It is important to get as much sleep as possible especially on those days away from the firehouse.  Studies have found that getting enough sleep is essential for healthy immune function and that insufficient sleep or poor sleep quality is associated with lowered immune function. Ultimately you want to get at least 8 hours each night.  There is hope for those of us that can’t sleep through the night, recent research shows that napping can boost health and the immune system.
  6. Add Some Sunshine.  Researchers are quickly catching on that Vitamin D may be the secret to avoiding the cold and flu. Vitamin D plays an important role in strengthening your defence system to better fight any invading viruses and bacteria. Unfortunately, it is also the number one vitamin deficiency in Americans.  Compounding the problem is the fact that Vitamin D is produced when the body gets adequate levels of sunshine; so naturally, even less is produced in the winter months. It has recently been hypothesized that this could be one major reason for the increase in cold and flu cases during the winter season. Because of this, it’s important that we have other ways of getting this powerful immune boosting vitamin. So here are some solutions.  Spend 15 minutes per day in the sun without any sunscreen on if possible and for those that are in climates that don’t allow you to be outside much then supplement with a Vitamin D3 supplement.  Experts suggest that you consume 2,000 IU per day to fight off the seasonal flu and to make sure your Vitamin D levels in your body are at a therapeutic level.  Of course check with your doctor regarding your individual Vitamin D levels and health plan.
  7. Put down the sugar.  When it comes to fighting cold and flu, reduce-sugarit is essential to decrease your amount of sugar intake. Sugar has devastating effects on the immune system, and the fact that Americans consume an average of 2-3 pounds of sugar per person every year spells bad news come cold and flu season. Not only does sugar increase the production of hormones that suppress the immune system, refined sugar needs micronutrients to be metabolized. This requires your body to use stored vitamins and minerals, further harming your defenses. Instead of eating high sugar foods try eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  This will make sure that your body is getting all of the vitamins and minerals that are essential to fighting of the cold and flu. Each and every fruit and vegetable is packed with thousands of phyto-chemicals. No supplement could ever match the power of eating a whole food.
  8. Spend time outdoors. Germs thrive in closed areas, so take time each day to step out for a breath of fresh air. In addition, central heating systems dry out the air and subsequently your body, leaving you more susceptible to germs. Running a humidifier in cold months will add moisture back into the air.  Getting outside will also help you get some Vitamin D.
  9. Vitamin C supplementation.  There are a lot of vitamins and minerals that can help boost your immune system but Vitamin C seems to be the typical staple in most people’s “immune booster” arsenal.  Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that provides support to your immune system but unfortunately it is often times consumed in the form of orange juice.  An 8 oz glass of orange juice contains just 70mg of Vitamin C, while loaded with 30 grams of sugar (carbs).  As a comparison, 8 oz of Coca-Cola contains just 26 grams of sugar.  In place of orange juice, opt for an actual orange (medium size = 70mg of Vitamin C) or some Vitamin C powder (~1,000 mg of Vitamin C) mixed with filtered water or sparkling mineral water.  These options save a ton of empty calories, reduce sugar consumption yet still sooth your cold symptoms!
  10. Chicken Soup, Mom and a good laugh.  I know that these things aren’t backed with research but chicken soup warms the spirit, TLC from Mom is always helpful and laughing can’t hurt (see the quote below).
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” 
 -Irish Proverb
Time to get “Fit for Duty,”  I hope you stay healthy this winter!
Aaron Zamzow

Fire Rescue Fitness is dedicated to getting firefighters, EMTs and medics “fit for duty.”  Each one of the FRF workouts include the above components and are guaranteed to get you stronger, leaner and moving better on the fire ground.  Take a look at the results thousands of Fire Rescue Athletes are getting with the FRF Firefighter Fat Loss Workout Program… Guaranteed to get you results

This is the same workout that the 2016 Fit for Duty Challenge Winner used.  Take a look at his and other firefighters results with this efficient and effective workout…

*THE RESULTS SHOWN ARE BASED ON ACTIVE AND STRICT PARTICIPATION IN OUR PROGRAM. RESULTS MAY VARY BASED ON INDIVIDUAL USER AND ARE NOT GUARANTEED.*

Kevin Glover Pics

When I started the FRF Rapid Fat Loss Workout I weighted 310.3 lbs with a body fat of 36%. I was able to lose over 60 pounds at the end I weighted 243.2 lbs with a body fat of 24.5%! 

My health was starting to get in the way of my life and the job was starting to get hard for me.  My weight was really starting to slow me down in every aspect of life and the job.

The program truly helped me not only lose weight but I’ve seen a huge change in my day to day life (and not just at work).  I have more energy and I look forward to getting outside and being active.  Around the station I’m the guy now that says let’s go outside and train, do some hands on stuff.

The programs was really easy to follow–everything was laid out for you and if you didn’t know how to do a workout you could go online and check it out (which was really nice for me). I’m still working (every day) to get in even better shape to insure that I am always “fit for duty.” Thanks for this great program!    -Kevin Glover

Click here for more information!

 Take a look the results Adam Hurford got using the FRF Rapid Fat Loss Workout…

Adam Hurford Pics

When I started the program, I saw weight loss initially, then noticed my cardio was much improved. People kept saying man you look good. After about a month then the body transformation just started booming. My final numbers were even surprising to me.  I lost a total of 45 pounds from 280 to 235, my body fat % went down from 33.2% to 25.8% and I lost a total of 22.25 inches and 6 pant sizes!  I can even see my abs again, the first time since high school.

The weight loss is great but the biggest change with using FRF was that my cardio and my ability in bottle drills was amazing. I could last on my bottle 2-3X longer. The guys at the station noticed and their confidence in me (and in the crew in general) improved.

I enjoyed the FRF workouts, they were easy to follow yet allowed for diversity.  They also used and followed a progression that allowed me to build a very solid “fitness” base. I used the stretching portion at the station and even got my crew involved.  We all noticed the increase in our flexibility!

My life is better because now, I feel like I can perform at a much higher level–I have more strength and stamina, which I was lacking before.  Thank you Aaron for breaking me free of my eating and working out demons and showing me the proper way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.   –Adam Hurford

Here are the results  other firefighters got with the program…

*THE RESULTS SHOWN ARE BASED ON ACTIVE AND STRICT PARTICIPATION IN OUR PROGRAM. RESULTS MAY VARY BASED ON INDIVIDUAL USER AND ARE NOT GUARANTEED.*

“Hey Aaron.  Just wanted to say thanks for the easy to follow workout program and eating guidelines. Today is day 28 of the program for me and I am happy to report I had great success. Total weight loss for me in the 28 days was 10.5#, I lost 1 1/2 inches off my waist, 5 inches off my belly.  What a nice feeling it is to have loose fitting pants again. Thanks again and I will let you know the results when the program is finished.  Thanks Again and Take Care.”

-Charlie Bau

“So far, I LOVE IT!  Lost 8 pounds in the first month and my core is stronger than ever. I feel more flexible and move faster.  The interval overhauls are a great idea and an easy way to incorporate “real” fire ground movements.  Looking forward to the next 6 weeks…..”

-R.  Heltsrtun

“Hey Aaron, I just have to send you a message to thank you for the workout program.  As of today I have lost 22 lbs., my body has definitely changed and become more defined and my turnouts are fitting me better.  The Eating Guidelines were a huge help and the cardio intervals kicked my butt in-shape.  I have a lot more energy!  I don’t feel rundown and tired after long calls now.  Thank You!”

-J. Markels

“Hey Aaron, Thank God for your program.  I’ve only been on it for just over a couple of weeks and I’m already seeing results. I’m fitting into pants that I couldn’t get into a couple of weeks ago.  I really notice a difference on calls now, I’m able to climb in my gear and don’t fatigue like I used to.  I’m moving better, stronger and definitely leaner!”

-T Heptins

  Click HERE to Order The FRF Rapid Fat Loss for Firefighters Program

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