Spring's on its way in, but -- if the DailyFinance offices are any indication -- we're not out of the woods yet. For the past few weeks, several writers at AOL's New York headquarters have been fighting off the last of our winter colds and desperately trying to stay healthy with immune systems that have been ravaged by the last few months of wintry chill.
It's actually not all that surprising that a cold epidemic seems to be sweeping through New York. With seasonal changes on its way, freezing weather is alternating with periodic bursts of pollen-clogged sunny days, creating a mix that manages to devastate both those with allergies and those who are hovering on the edge of illness. To make things worse, the shift back to daylight savings time translates into a lot of people who are waking up in the dark and trying to deal with circadian rhythms that are now out of whack.
But don't worry -- help is on the way. I've put together a list of five items, all of which cost less than five bucks, that can help you get over the last of the winter blahs.
Good luck and keep your fingers crossed for spring!
Saving Money, Staying Healthy: Five Cheap Things That Will Help You Stay Healthy
Save Money, Stay Healthy: 5 Cheap Things to Help Your Health
In the South Pacific, where it grows naturally, kava kava is a popular sedative that often shows up in religious and social rituals. Yogi Tea's "Calming" blend mixes the herb with lemongrass, chamomile and gotu kola to produce a tasty, mildly sedative brew. If you're having a difficult time adjusting your sleep cycle to daylight savings, or just can't quite get to sleep, it's a delicious, healthy alternative to sleeping pills, melatonin, or other over-the-counter sleep aids.
Numerous studies have suggested that zinc boosts the immune system, and that supplements, taken at the beginning of a cold, can help reduce its duration. Concerns still persist that zinc-based nasal sprays can permanently damage a cold sufferer's sense of smell, but zinc lozenges, placed under the tongue, remain a safe and effective supplement. Best of all, many retailers offer them for under $2!
For anybody who spends a lot of time in sunlight, vitamin D isn't a problem. In fact, according to WebMD, six days of casual sunlight exposure without sunscreen will pretty much do it. Even so, huge portions of the country, particularly in the north, are vitamin D deficient. In addition to contributing to seasonal affective disorder, the lack of vitamin D can cause immune problems, skin problems, osteoporosis, and a host of other problems. Luckily, supplements start at about $2 per bottle.
While it doesn't seem to have much affect on the immune system, fish oil is a must-have when it comes to general health. Often cited for its affect on high blood pressure, its effectiveness in reducing heart attacks and strokes, and its general benefits for cardiovascular wellness, fish oil is cheap, convenient and easy to find. Admittedly, the best fish oils tend to cost a bit more, but entry-level brands generally run $3 or less.
If you watch The Office, you might remember the secret Santa episode, in which Dwight announced his plans to use Jim's gift to Pam to clear out his sinuses. While the notion of nasal irrigation is a little uncomfortable (yes, the end of the little teapot really DOES go in your nostril!), doctors widely acknowledge that it's a great treatment for sinus problems associated with allergies and colds. An entry-level model costs just under $4.