There are many things to look forward to in winter, but the onset of flu season isn’t one of them. Flu is a much more serious and severe illness than the common cold, so catching the flu could take you out of commission for 1-2 weeks. Nobody enjoys muscle aches, fatigue, congestion, coughing, and sneezing. Although there are treatments to ease these flu symptoms, the best way to avoid them is to prevent yourself from catching the flu in the first place. Here are the best ways to prevent the flu.
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Wash Your Hands
Good hygiene is one of the best ways to avoid catching illnesses like the cold or flu. These viruses are commonly spread by touching the same surfaces that an infected person has touched after sneezing or coughing into their hands. Keeping your hands clean means that you don’t have to worry about transporting flu germs whenever you touch your face – although it is best to avoid this. Wash your hands thoroughly, and void touching other people’s hands, rubbing your eyes or nose, and putting your fingers near your mouth. Carry antibacterial hand sanitizer in your bag (but don’t over-use it).
Keep Surfaces Clean
If you share a working space or living space with multiple other people, keeping it clean is essential. Sanitize hard surfaces like tables and countertops, and don’t forget to wipe down door handles and faucets. In combination with keeping your own hands clean, this will prevent you from picking up someone else’s germs. It is important to avoid sharing food, utensils, towels, or other objects with anyone who might be ill. If you do share things like cups, bowls, or cutlery with others, ensure that you wash them properly before and after you use them. Don’t forget to wipe down your phone too.
Exercise and Rest
In general, regular exercise and getting enough sleep is an important part of staying healthy. When you are ill with the flu, you will be too tired to exercise and have poor-quality rest while you try to recover. If you want your immune system to be in the best possible shape to fight off illnesses like the flu, and reduce your chances of catching them, then stay active during the day and sleep well at night. Lack of rest weakens your immune system, but sleeping for the right amount of time and then increasing your circulation with exercise will strengthen it, making you less susceptible to getting ill.
Eat These Foods
Eating well is another important part of staying healthy. If you eat the right things, your immune system will thank you for it. Avoid consuming processed sugars and aim for nutrient-rich foods with healthy fats instead. Vitamin C and zinc can help to boost your immune system, so eat citrus fruits and meat and eggs (or vegan/vegetarian substitutes). Garlic is also good for the heart, with anti-bacterial properties that can help to prevent infections. One of the best ways to stay warm and get your immune system going is to whip up a hot soup or stew with plenty of nutritious vegetables.
Supplements won’t completely stop you from getting sick, but they can strengthen your body’s resistance to infections and enable you to fight them off faster if you do get sick. As most of the immune system is in the gut, it is a good idea to take probiotics to boost the levels of good bacteria in your gut.
Dr Kate Stephens, Gut Microbiologist, explains: “Your gut is one of the first entry points for germs, and with 70% of the immune system found here, it’s really important to keep it protected to help ward off winter bugs. Stress, lack of sleep and a bad diet can all create an imbalanced gut microbiome, which in turn can lower your immune system. So it’s important you look after your wellbeing during the colder months, and consider taking a daily probiotic which is specially formulated to boost your immune system. This will help fight nasty bugs by correcting the imbalance in the microbiome and creating a barrier on top of your gut cells to boost your immune system.”
Of course, the flu is a virus, not a bacteria, so you may also want to take antiviral herbs such as echinacea, olive leaf, grapefruit seed, or elderberry. You can get these in tablets or as tea to drink. Taking a daily multivitamin can also help your immune system, especially for Vitamins C and D. OptiBac Probiotics are a daily supplement that helps with natural immune support.
Quit Smoking and Drinking
You probably know all about the various health risks of smoking, but did you know that smoking can also make you more vulnerable to catching the flu? This is because cigarette smoke can destroy cilia and inflame the membranes in the nose, which makes you more susceptible to infection. Secondary cigarette smoke will also have this effect, so even being around a smoker can affect you. Regularly drinking alcohol can also reduce your immune system, so you should limit your alcohol intake too. Smoking or drinking are often coping methods for stress, and reducing stress is good for you overall.
Protect Your Nose
The flu and viruses like colds are spread when the virus comes into contact with mucus membranes, usually inside the nose. Enhance your nose’s germ barrier by applying Vaseline to the inside of your nostrils with a cotton bud. As strange as it might sound, you should also give your nose a shower. If you flush out your nose with saline solution, this does the double job of getting rid of any germs that may be hiding in there and keeping your nasal passages moist. Mucus membranes need to be moist in order to trap the invading germs and prevent them from entering your system and making you ill.
Get a Flu Vaccine
Maybe the most obvious defence mechanism against the flu is getting a flu shot. Vaccinating against that year’s most common types of flu is the best way to ensure that your system can fight off the flu if it comes into contact with it. It can take a couple of weeks for the flu vaccine to be effective, so get your flu jab at the start of flu season to make sure that it works in time. Flu season begins in October and peaks in February, so make sure that you’re prepared. People with certain health conditions can contact their GP to book a free flu jab. Otherwise, most health clinics will offer flu jabs for up to £20.