This article originally appeared on KathleenBarnes.com on November 10, 2009.

Yes, everybody’s talking about the swine flu and whether or not we should get vaccinations or even if they’ll be available.

I’m not going to go elaborate on the politics of the vaccine and the profits Big Pharma is going to make on the vaccines without any liability, thanks to protection from liability given to pharmaceutical companies by the U.S. Congress.

We all want to stay healthy.

The best way to stay healthy is to embrace a healthy lifestyle and keep your immune system strong. It all sounds so very simple. It is!

Yet we are all exposed to viruses and sometimes they get the better of us. I remember that dreadful year my husband taught elementary school when we couldn’t seem to crawl out from under the increasing heap of fast mutating viruses until school was mercifully dismissed for the summer.

We all know now about hand washing and coughing into our sleeves to prevent the spread of viruses. It goes without saying that you’re eating a healthy diet and getting lots of exercise, right?

Here are four ways you may not have encountered that will help strengthen your immune system and help you fight off viruses when they come your way:

1. Salt water washes: Dissolve a teaspoon of unrefined sea salt into a cup of warm water. Gargle morning and night and wash out your nose. If you’re able to use a neti pot or “drink” the water through your nose from a glass, do so. If not, dip a Q-tip in the salt water (after your gargle, please!) and thoroughly swab out your nose twice a day.

2. Get some sunshine: Vitamin D is one of the most effective immune system enhancers known and sunshine is the best way for your body to manufacture the vitamin D that provides a plethora of health benefits, including immune system enhancement. True enough, it’s hard to get enough sunshine in the dead of winter, which is one of the reasons why we are more susceptible to viruses at this time of year. In that case, vitamin D supplementation is the way to go. Dr. Joe Mercola recommends at least 3,000 IU of Vitamin D3 a day at this time of year and more if you have chronic illnesses.

3. Get enough sleep: Studies has shown that people who get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night are three times more likely to catch a cold or flu. If you get sick, it will take longer for your to recover if you don’t adhere to the seven-plus hours of shuteye every night.

4. Try Thieves Oil: This powerful blend of essential oils is reputed to have protect grave robbers form catching the bubonic plague during the Middle Ages. True or not, this sweetly scented blend does really seem to help if you rub it on your temples, under your nose or even gargle with a few drops of the oil added to water a couple of time a day. I’ve found Thieves Oil especially effective in confined places, like the airplanes I needed to ride, somewhat unwillingly, four times in the past three weeks. You can also buy Thieves Oil blends in cleaning products, hand soap, toothpaste and more. Here’s here you can find Thieves Oil.

Read more from Kathleen about Natural Remedies and living a Healthy Lifestyle.