There’s no bigger bummer than getting sick during the holidays. Everyone else is out enjoying the festivities while you’re stuck in bed, plagued by a cold or the flu. You might be thinking, “This always happens to me this time of year,” and you’re probably right.
But why do so many people get sick during the holiday season? The answer might be related to your gut. Professor Glenn Gibson, head of microbial sciences at Reading University, points out that, “most of our immune system is located in the gut,” and that the change in diet, exercise patterns, and overall lifestyle during the holidays has a negative effect on our digestion and immunity.
Spending time with family is another hallmark of the holiday season, but this too can increase the risk of getting sick. “The holidays are a virus-distribution system,” warns Dr. William Schaffner, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, and staying in close quarters with sniffling cousins, nieces, and nephews is an easy way to get the entire family sick.
We’ve asked nine doctors — specializing in fields ranging from migraines to gastroenterology — how to avoid getting sick during the holidays, and for the most part they’ve all agreed that staying healthy involves following general healthy lifestyle principles like getting proper sleep, washing your hands frequently, and being active. But some doctors also recommended adhering to a few specific, immune-boosting remedies that may not be so familiar.
Here are 12 tips from nine doctors on how to avoid getting sick during the holidays