Once you feel that telltale tickle in your throat or the first sniffle of congestion, it's too late. Symptoms for the flu rear their ugly head about a day to four days after you've been exposed to the virus. Then you're left debating the pros and cons of various over-the-counter solutions in the cold remedy aisle of the drug store.
But if you take the right precautions, you can save yourself a whole lot of Kleenex. "An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure," says Philip M. Tierno, Ph.D., clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU Langone Medical Center.
First and foremost, get your flu shot, he says, even if you stayed healthy last winter without getting vaccinated. But know that the shot doesn't guarantee that you won't get sick, so it's important to take a number of other measures to protect your health. No, we don't mean wearing a surgical mask when you take public transportation (although, it might actually help!). Here are some of the most simple, natural ways to boost your immune system this cold and flu season.