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Avoiding Cold and Flu – Strategies for the Whole Family

Jonathan Vellinga, MD -

Avoiding Cold and Flu – Strategies for the Whole Family

Building immunity and putting certain practices in place before the cold and flu season arrives can help reduce the risk of catching a viral infection. As the holiday season nears, many people are feeling apprehensive about another season of cold, flu, and COVID-19. However, there are many reasons to be optimistic! While cases of COVID-19 do still occasionally spike, currently the overall serious repercussions are down in California. It’s likely that the health habits adopted over the last few years have become second nature and contributed to the cases being down. Indeed, health education can go a long way toward avoiding viral infections.

The Temecula Center for Integrative Medicine (TCIM) participated in health education through an excellent 6-part series, the “Immune System Resource Guide.” Information specific to COVID-19 was covered in a separate, earlier article entitled, “Resource Links: How to Reduce your risk for SARS-COV 2 but still see family and friends.” If you have the time, reviewing the series will provide important details about the immune system and disease. In fact, the purpose of this article is not to repeat those valuable contributions but to highlight some points from previous articles and refine what we can do going forward to keep ourselves and our families safe and healthy.

Continue to Assess the Risk

The holiday season will soon be upon us. There may be visits with friends and family that involve being in close proximity to enjoy meals together. It’s probably best to keep an eye out for situations that increase the risk of transmitting a viral infection. We know now that the lowest risk gatherings are small numbers of people meeting outside for a short time. Sunshine can help evaporate potentially disease-carrying droplets as we speak, and the huge volume of air circulating outside reduces the chances of taking a direct inhalation of someone else’s droplets. Additionally, both socializing and being in the sunshine are immune system boosters! Doing both activities together can bolster the immune system while still mitigating the risk of catching and spreading viruses.

The risk of transmission of SARS-COV2 appears to be a function of the length of time people will be in close contact with each other, how close they are to each other, in what type of enclosure, and other criteria. For a lively discussion of criteria to assess the risk of transmission, see our video in this posting, “Resource Links: How to Reduce your risk for SARS-COV 2 but still see family and friends.” On the webpage, there is also a downloadable PDF with some helpful graphics.


Building up your (and your family’s) immune system before the holiday season begins is a key strategy. There are several aspects to this: consistently mastering the basics, using nutritional supplements to bolster health and immunity, and managing stress. The idea is to be as fit as possible before the peak flu season, so your disease resistance is at a maximum when many viruses are circulating. Building immunity can take time and planning, so starting now can ensure the best possible results.

Consistently Master the Basics

The 5 Pillars of Health is something we frequently highlight in our posts because of the enduring value of eating nutritious food and getting enough sleep, among other basics. When the holiday season is upon us, we can get so distracted that we short ourselves on sleep or eating right, precisely at the time we need it the most to fight off infections!

Good, consistent sleep and nutrition prevent physical depletion and provide necessary building blocks for the immune system. Certainly, overextending ourselves without getting good sleep and adequate nutrition can prevent the immune system from working at its best and leave us vulnerable to infection. Consistency in implementing the basics is fundamental to providing the elements necessary for deep healing and vibrant health, giving the body strong resilience to disease.

Children may benefit from a refresher on washing hands, covering their coughs, and recognizing symptoms that may signal they are coming down with an illness. Encourage children to tell you if they have a headache, “warm” face, body aches, loss of taste or smell, or anything out of the ordinary.

Take Immune-Boosting Supplements as Maintenance, Long Before Flu Season

Taking nutritional supplements is a way to address both prevention and early discouragement of viral infections. It can take a few weeks for nutritional supplements to gain their full effect and work as effective prevention, so starting in September or October will give them time to work before flu season peaks. The following links provide our detailed supplement suggestions:

Those who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or have any type of ongoing health condition should check with their healthcare practitioner about each specific supplement and dosage. The practitioner can cross-reference the supplements with any medications that are being taken to make sure there are no contraindications. Additionally, practitioners can fine-tune dosages, taking into consideration your health history, allergies, and other personal considerations (such as trying to conceive).

A Special Note on Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 is especially important. Statistics coming out of hospitals with COVID-19 patients indicated that a large portion of those with severe vitamin D3 deficiencies experienced more severe symptoms (1). Not only that, taking vitamin D3 after an infection led to a lower number of days in the hospital (2). That makes sense because immune system cells that fight viruses require vitamin D3. To be activated, these immune system cells must have vitamin D3 plugged into receptors on their surface. So, having enough vitamin D3 circulating in the blood is a powerful way to activate greater numbers of immune system cells to fight viral infections. Avoiding a deficiency by having adequate levels of vitamin D3 can help you avoid serious infectious illnesses this winter and all year round.

A simple blood test can gauge serum D3 levels, with the results helping a practitioner make customized dosage suggestions that will help activate your immune system to prevent viral infections. Depending on the level of deficiency, it can take a few weeks of proper supplementation to get adequate D3 levels. Again, it pays to get tested and start on this process as soon as possible. If you’re curious about what testing vitamin D3 entails, read the section “Hypothetical Vitamin D3 Testing Scenario” in our “Micronutrients” article. Once your vitamin D3 levels are adequate, studies show you will have:

  • increased the odds of testing negative for the presence of SARS-COV2 (3), the virus that results in the set of symptoms called “COVID-19”

  • a less severe case of COVID-19 should you succumb to it (4)

  • increased your immune defenses (5)

Vitamin D3 supplementation is easy and well worth the investment in terms of prevention of illness and reducing symptoms if you do succumb to illness.


Long-term stress wears down the immune system (6) and can have numerous negative health consequences. Stress can build around the holidays due to a heavier-than-normal schedule, feeling obliged to do particular things, and having communication issues. Here’s a short list of suggestions that can help prevent holiday stress.

Simply Your Family’s Schedule