PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A medical collision course is on the way as the cold and flu seasons collide with COVID.
While you might be able to vaccinate against COVID and the flu, colds are more elusive.READ MORE: Study Says Water Is Pennsylvania's Biggest Phobia
Colds can lower your chance to fight off the others. Due to COVID, it is probably more important now to take the cold and flu season even more seriously than in the past.
The answer, to raise your immunity to avoid illnesses.
That may require some lifestyle adjustments beginning with number one.
“I would say get adequate amounts of sleep, absolutely,” says Allegheny Health Network’s Dr. Jennifer Preiss. “That’s the important thing because it keeps the immune system healthy, keeps the immune system being able to respond. I think if you were exposed to a cold or a virus and you haven’t had enough sleep you’ll get into trouble and you, your body will not be able to make the antibodies, it needs to fight off infection.”
Next up in the big three is what you are eating.
“Good nutrition, making sure that you get adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, adequate amounts of protein, moderate, carbohydrates, both simple and complicated, complex carbohydrates, staying away from sugary heavy laden sugar type foods and drinks are very important,” she says.
Dr. Preiss says elevated sugar levels reduce your body’s ability to defend itself.
“I’m not saying you can ever have them, but they are not friendly to your immune system,” she explains.
The third link to a healthy immune system is exercise.
“There is lots and lots of data that people who exercise, have a much healthier, more reactive immune system,” Dr. Preiss says.
All of these elements are critical for children too. “Sleep is incredibly important nutrition is incredibly important, and exercise is incredibly important.”READ MORE: Butler VA To Hold Walk-In Clinic For Veterans And Employees To Get Vaccine Booster Shots
WATCH: Supplementing Your Immune System
As for supplements to boost your immunity Dr. Preiss says, “I think that in Pittsburgh in our latitude and longitude that vitamin D supplementation is probably helpful for our immune system because I don’t think we have enough sunny days.”
But what about Vitamin C?
“Vitamin C has always been talked about with, you know, for the cold. I really think that that data is somewhat overhyped, the amount of vitamin C that people take is can be very excessive. I don’t think it hurts, but ultimately I don’t think it really helps,” she says.
Dr. Preiss says another supplement that gets a lot of buzz is Zinc.
“I think if you have a cold, and you start zinc within the first six to 12 hours,” she explains. “There may be some benefit to shortening the course of that cold. The problem with zinc is you got to use it about every three to four hours, so people are not waking up in the middle of the night to use a zinc swab or zinc nasal spray or zinc lozenge.”
While she says there is no substitute for getting your vitamins and nutrition from food she is a pediatrician and knows about kids being picky eaters. “If your child is a very poor eater and has poor eating habits or refuses a lot of different foods, as we know that children can do sometimes, I think taking a multivitamin is perfectly fine.”
When it comes to eating vitamin healthy foods Dr. Preiss says, “An apple, rather than applesauce. You know, that gummies that are supposed to be with real fruit juice, it’s much better if you actually have the real fruit.”
She says it is not an old wives tale that Chicken Soup can help shorten the length of a cold.
“Is it going to be you know, only three days instead of seven, no, maybe more like four or five instead of seven, but you generally will start to feel better sooner,” Dr. Preiss says.
Dr. Preiss says dark fruits and veggies are the best. Like berries, broccoli, and green beans.MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Native Michael Keaton To Talk Climate Change Tonight On '60 Minutes'
While it would be nice to think a heightened immune system will protect you against COVID-19 Dr. Preiss says there is no data to support that one way or the other.