Struck down by a stinking cold or the dreaded flu every single year? From a persistent cough to a sore throat or a constantly runny nose, if you've ever had the sniffles you will know how debilitating cold and flu season can be.
While there is no way to completely avoid picking up nasty bugs (unless you socially isolate yourself, and where's the fun in that?) the good news is with a few simple lifestyle changes you can strengthen your defences and arm yourself against cold and flu season.
GP Dr Roger Henderson offers his expert advice on the difference between a cold and flu and the best virus prevention tips:
Why do I get a cold every year?
There are over 200 different cold viruses and it’s likely that most of us will catch at least one or two colds every year. A dry, scratchy sore throat is often the first sign followed by a runny nose, fatigue and loss of appetite.
But why do you always seems to pick them up? When the weather turns cold, the heating gets turned up, but being in the warmth and surrounded by ill people in a confined space often creates the perfect environment for germs to spread, which means that people seem more prone to infection over the winter months.
What’s the difference between cold and flu?
Flu is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus and each year up to 15 per cent of us will catch flu. Unlike a cold, the symptoms start suddenly and are more severe – high fever, extreme fatigue and aches are all common traits.
Colds and flu are both highly contagious. The virus is airborne, so every time you cough, sneeze or talk, germs are spread. The virus can also be transferred by hand contact, so it’s important to wash your hands regularly. To stave off the cold and flu or minimise their impact, try the following tips:
10 tips to fight off colds and flu
You can't avoid picking up colds completely, but if you stick to the following tips you can strengthen your defences to arm yourself against cold and flu season:
1. Eat your five-a-day
Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day – they are great for boosting your immune system. A portion of fruit includes one medium-sized whole fruit or three smaller fruits, for example satsumas or dried apricots.
🤒 Keep bugs at bay by eating plenty of garlic and onion. Known for their antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, they can help fight infections. And, if you don’t like it in its natural form, garlic is also available as a supplement.
2. Stay hydrated
Drink lots of water, especially if you spend a lot of time in centrally heated spaces or have a cold or flu. Not only will it keep your body hydrated, but it will also help to flush out toxins. Aim to drink at least 1.4 litres of water per day.
3. Watch your units
Limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Too much can lead to vitamin deficiencies, which can affect your immune system and your ability to fight infection.
4. Get enough sleep
It’s the body’s natural way of recharging its batteries. So, if you start to feel under the weather, help your body to recover by getting more sleep.
5. Drink tea
Green tea is one of the richest sources of antioxidants, so it’s great for helping you to beat winter bugs and giving your immune system a boost. If you don’t like the taste then ordinary tea is also fine.
6. Take time to relax
When your body is under stress you are more susceptible to the viral infections that cause coughs, colds and flu, so keep calm and stay healthy. Try yoga or relaxation techniques to put your mind at ease.
7. Don’t touch your face
The cold virus is often carried on the hands and then enters your body through your eyes, nose or mouth. So, minimise the risk of catching a cold by washing your hands regularly. To get rid of germs, rub your hands together vigorously with lots of soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds.
8. Keep active
Exercise is the perfect way to give your immune system a boost, so try to exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times a week.
9. A tissue!
When blowing your nose use disposable tissues that are then safely disposed of - this reduces the risk of infection.
10. Get the flu jab
The flu jab can protect you from contracting the flu virus. The flu jab is free to those 65 and over, as well as at-risk groups and is your best protection against flu, which is a serious illness.
The flu jab contains no live virus, so it cannot give you flu, but can keep you well every winter. The virus changes every year, so you need to be vaccinated again every year. Just because you haven’t had it before doesn’t mean you’ll be OK this time. Having the jab means you can’t give flu to friends and family.
Last updated: 17-09-19
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