It's that dreaded time of year again when the cold and flu season seems like it will never end.  The grey skies and cold weather make it hard enough to keep a smile on your face—throw in a couple of sick kids and it's enough to drive a gal crazy. We all know the old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," but how do you put those wise words into action? These natural cold and flu tricks will keep you and your family in tip top shape this season.

1. Change your diet

Nutritionists will tell you to "eat the rainbow" and they don't mean those famous little candies. Eating foods that are nutrient dense and antioxidant rich will give your body the best nutrition to stay in fighting form. Healthy eating is the best way to prevent illnesses from striking and increase recovery time if you do catch the latest bug on the block.

What to add to your diet:

  • Dark red and orange foods: Carrots, beets and red peppers are high in vitamin C which is known to prevent and treat the common cold.
  • Dark leafy greens: Kale and spinach are high in vitamin A, magnesium, folate and iron, all of which assist in cellular regeneration.
  • Darker hued fruits and veggies: Eggplant and blueberries are high in potassium and B-6, both of which are known to decrease fatigue and ward off aches and pains.

2. Use essential oils

Essential oils have been used to fight off germs and heal what ails for centuries. While therapeutic grade oils are far from cheap, don't let the sticker price shock you. Investing in a few key oils that will serve your family all season long is a much more affordable option than shelling out for multiple doctor's visits and paying for prescription pills.

These are some must-have oils:

  • Peppermint: It relieves headaches while the eucalyptus in it is a natural decongestant.
  • Oil of oregano: It’s high in antibacterial and antiviral properties.
  • Lavender oil: It’s well known for inducing sleep, but it also provides powerful pain relief as well.

Therapeutic oil blends have a long-established history of healing and preventing illnesses. “Thieves Oil Blend” is one of these oils that can help keep you healthy (even through flu season).  To make your own “Thieves Oil Blend,” simply mix the following oils in a dark glass bottle.

Thieves Oil Blend:

  • 1 Tbsp Clove Essential Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Essential Oil
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon Bark Essential oil
  • 2 tsp Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 2 tsp Rosemary Essential Oil

3. Start drinking tea

Tea time isn't just a stodgy afternoon ritual. Drinking a warm cup of tea can soothe respiratory passages and relieve sore and scratchy throats. When the slightest cough hits our home I whip up a batch of my "Sickie Tea” which loosens mucus congestion, relives pain and wards off bacteria. The tannic acid in black tea helps constrict inflamed blood vessels in red and raw sore throats, lemon cuts through mucus secretions, and honey is a strong antimicrobial agent which also provides soothing comfort in every sip.  If I'm making this tea for the over 21 crowd, I'll throw in a shot of whiskey for good measure. The alcohol adds antiseptic properties to the tea and also numbs away the pain.

Sickie Tea

  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 black tea bags or 3 Tbsp of loose leaf black tea
  • 1Ž2 lemons
  • Honey to taste
  • 1 ounce whiskey (optional)

Directions:

Add tea to simmering water and steep for 1-2 minutes. Stir the juice from 1Ž2 lemons into the tea, adding honey to taste and whiskey as desired.

4. Keep your nasal passages clear

When it comes to staying healthy, the best defense is a good offense. Our bodies are designed to keep us healthy, but harsh dry air from heaters can strip our natural defenses by drying out nasal passages that require moisture to trap incoming germs. A humidifier is an easy and cost-effective way to add moisture back into the air and keep you breathing easily. Healthcare-related items like humidifiers can be purchased using your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) card, no need to file a claim or wait to be reimbursed.  Another DIY fix that gets the job done is rubbing an aromatic salve on your chest and the soles of your feet to fight congestion and relieve muscle aches. Don't shell out money for expensive vapor rubs on the store shelf; you can make your own by using stockpile basics and a few drops of essential oils.

Homemade Vapor Rub

  • 1Ž4 cups of unscented petroleum jelly
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Directions

Microwave petroleum jelly in 20-second increments in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring until melted. Add essential oils and stir well to combine. Pour the mixture into container with a lid and allow to cool.

DIY Cold and Flu Remedies: How to Fight Back Without Busting the Bank