Dude, seriously! I JUST wrote a Tumblr on this very subject!
I’ll keep this brief, because it’s important, and I want you to read it.
1. Get as much vitamin D from the sun as you can NOW (from Oct – April, you can’t really get it, even if you lay out at our latitude – I’m assuming you are in NYC, like I am). I talk about the safest and best way to do this in my sunscreen article.
2. If you have low vitamin D levels, your doctor should be telling you to supplement. It will definitely help you avoid or lessen the impact of colds and flus. [NOTE: All nutrients, foods and your own body chemistry work together, and taking something in isolation without understanding the whole picture is not a great idea, so for realz – talk to your doctor. For example, to be absorbed, Vitamin D needs to be taken with fat. It works together with Magnesium, Phosphorus, Vitamin K and Calcium, and others, all in different amounts. Messing up the balance of your body is a bad idea.]
3. Get yourself some high quality, homemade chicken broth and keep it in the freezer just in case you need it. (Worse case, you make soup in the spring.) You don’t want to be traipsing around with a 104 degree fever looking for the stuff when you’re sick and then settling for some MSG-laden crap. In my humble opinion, there is NOTHING better for a cold or flu than rest and chicken broth.
4. Keep some natural remedies on hand. Photos of the stuff I use are below, and explanations are after that.
Aside from consistently taking SOMETHING to raise your vitamin D levels if they are low, I consider oregano oil and zinc spray the be my main first defenses if feel a cold/flu coming on. My oregano oil is Integral Yoga’s own brand, and I put a 1-3 drops under my tongue when I feel a sickness coming on. Warning: it is very strong and it burns, and it upsets my stomach a tiny bit. I’m not telling you it’s a cure for colds and flus (or anything else for that matter), I’m telling you I take it and I like it for certain uses. BUT USE WITH CAUTION, talk to a doctor about it, you can mix it with something else, and I would not give it to a child. I have a post on the zinc spray here. Oh, and when I take the Vitamin C, I break open the capsule and put it under my tongue. It is incredibly sour. Have water handy.
Again, remember, I’m not telling you that any of this stuff cures anything… I’m just saying it’s what I use. Talk to your doctor. A warning on the goldenseal – this is a tincture, and I put a few drops under my tongue if I feel nasal / sinus congestion coming on. It tastes HORRIBLE, and it upsets my stomach a little bit, but it has often helped me. I would not use this on a child, because it tastes so bad, but your doctor can direct you more knowledgeably than I can.
5. You should have some sort of electrolyte solution on hand just in case you get sick, and I don’t like Gatorade or a sports drink for that situation, because there’s too much sugar and other stuff in drinks like that. I like Smart Water, or clear, unflavored Pedialyte (which kind of tastes nasty), but I think your best bet to have around is probably Oral Rehydration Salts or something similar.
6. A humidifier is also a great idea (my buying guide), but only if you use it and keep it very clean. If you need to steam yourself in a pinch, Boil an inch or so of water in a pot, wait about 5 minutes or so, then put it on a burn proof oven mitt or something stable and nonflammable like that in a stable area FAR AWAY FROM THE STOVE OR FIRE and put your face about a foot or two above it with a towel over your head, so the steam doesn’t escape. Start far away and move closer in a comfortable range, to make sure you don’t burn yourself or your nasal passages. Then breathe in to get that warm, moist air in your sinuses and lungs. It might help loosen up mucous so you can get it out.
UPDATE: My friend Suzanne just asked me “Why not steam over the pot you boiled the water in (not on the stove)?” I answered “Because the pot will be too hot and you risk burning your furniture (even with hot pads), yourself (it’s likely you will touch the pot, even inadvertently) and/or your nasal passages/face because the pot itself will keep the water too hot. Pour into an unheated pot or bowl.
7. A few other things: sleep is super important, so is exercise and moving around. Large muscle movement (walking, running, cardio, etc.) moves lymph around your body and helps you stay healthy. Don’t eat sugar/sweet treats/junk when you feel like you are getting sick. I think it just makes everything worse and your body more susceptible. Wash your hands well with warm, soapy water before you eat, touch your face, scratch your nose, wipe your eyes, put on make up, touch your mouth, etc. It makes a difference. Have some wipes in your bag, so you can clean your hands if you’re not around a sink. I use the Cleanwell pocket pack of wipes.