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Avoiding Cold and Flu – Strategies for the Whole Family

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

A month after school starts is a good time to re-evaluate family workload and schedules. Are the children looking rested and handling their school and extra-curricular activities well? Or are they having a hard time waking up in the morning, tired after school, and wanting to sleep all weekend? Be willing to reassess kids’ schedules and pare down their activities if they are stretched too thin.

Look for places to cut out activities or combine two activities into one. Be a role model by paring down your own activities based on your priorities, and explain how you determined what activities to cut out. It’s important for children to see that even their parents have to sacrifice activities sometimes for the sake of better health. Let them know it’s okay to let some things go. You don’t have to “do it all,” especially if you’re becoming depleted and feeling run-down.

Reduce Your Obligations

For some reason, many events and obligations pile up in the last 3 months of the year. There are many ways to reduce the demands on your time. Sometimes, it’s as simple as saying, “no.” Otherwise, here are a few ideas:

  • If you volunteer regularly, consider taking a hiatus in November and December. Or, each year, pick just one event in November or December to volunteer at.

  • Consider catering instead of making a holiday meal yourself, or move your gathering to an outdoor venue that serves food.

  • Learn the art of delegation! Enlist help for activities that typically increase stress around the holidays: cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping.

  • Adopt the “one gift” policy for holidays. Many families have reduced the time needed to shop for holiday gifts by only giving one gift per family member. Admittedly, this strategy works better with older children, but it’s something to think about. The focus shifts from quantity to quality of the gift and can be substantial savings in terms of time and energy for parents.

Build Rest into Your Holiday Schedule

It is vitally important to build times of rest into the family’s holiday schedule. It’s especially important to put a few days between gatherings. Not only does this allow you time to rest, but should you or a family member succumb to a contagious infection, having a few days between events would give you time to recognize the symptoms of illness and cancel plans if necessary. If you or any family member starts to feel run-down, or have a low-grade fever or cold symptoms, halt all activities and assess. If symptoms are not severe, use our treatment strategies and see if the illness can be interrupted and diminished.

Have a Plan & Communicate it to Your Family

Make it a family mission to get through cold and flu season without getting sick. Explain the reasons for taking vitamins for maintenance, putting a priority on good sleep, and eating nutritious food. Help family members stick to their vitamin regimens by communicating the importance of it. Explain the actions that will be taken if a family member gets sick; for example, implementing the prevention and treatment protocol summarized here. Ask everyone to be on the lookout for symptoms and speak up if they don’t feel well or feel like they are getting run down. Sometimes taking a day off work or letting a child stay home from school for one day when they are run-down will prevent an illness that could last several days or even a week.

Go Forth in Good Health

Hopefully, some of these strategies will be helpful to you this upcoming holiday season. TCIM is always happy to help you and your family get healthy, and stay healthy. Make an appointment with us to get your vitamin D3 tested or get a full physical if it’s been a while since you’ve had one. We would be privileged to help create a plan to build your immunity and answer all your questions before the cold and flu season arrives.


Jonathan Vellinga, M.D.

Jonathan Vellinga, MD is an Internal Medicine practitioner with a broad interest in medicine. He graduated Summa cum laude from Weber State University in Clinical Laboratory Sciences and completed his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin.​

Upon graduation from medical school, he completed his Internal Medicine residency at the University of Michigan. Dr. Vellinga is board-certified with the American Board of Internal Medicine and a member of the Institute for Functional Medicine.




  1. Saeed MAM, Mohamed AH, Owaynat AH. Cholecalciferol level and its impact on COVID-19 patients. Egypt J Intern Med. 2022;34(1):23. doi: 10.1186/s43162-022-00116-w. Epub 2022 Feb 21. PMID: 35221663; PMCID: PMC8860261.

  2. Nasser FA, Younis LA, Abidreda KH, Alyasiri I. Importance of Vitamin D3 in COVID-19 Patients. Arch Razi Inst. 2021 Nov 30;76(5):1545-1549. doi: 10.22092/ari.2021.356070.1769. PMID: 35355776; PMCID: PMC8934098.

  3. Kaufman H.W., Niles J.K., Kroll M.H., Bi C., Holick M.F. SARS-CoV-2 positivity rates associated with circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. PLoS One. 2020 Sep 17;15(9):e0239252. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239252. PMID: 32941512; PMCID: PMC7498100.

  4. Dror A.A., Morozov N., Daoud A., Namir Y., Yakir O., Shachar Y., Lifshitz M., Segal E., Fisher L., Mizrachi M., Eisenbach N., Rayan D., Gruber M., Bashkin A., Kaykov E., Barhoum M., Edelstein M., Sela E. Pre-infection 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels and association with severity of COVID-19 illness. PLoS One. 2022 Feb 3;17(2):e0263069. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0263069. PMID: 35113901; PMCID: PMC8812897

  5. Im J.H., Je Y.S., Baek J., Chung M.H., Kwon H.Y., Lee J.S. Nutritional status of patients with COVID-19. Int J Infect Dis. 2020 Nov;100:390-393. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2020.08.018. Epub 2020 Aug 11. PMID: 32795605; PMCID: PMC7418699.

  6. Dhabhar FS. Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunol Res. 2014 May;58(2-3):193-210. doi: 10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0. PMID: 24798553.


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