Body & Fitness

Seven ways to beat winter bugs

Stay healthy this winter with these seven secrets from people who never get colds.

Ever see those people who breeze through winter without so much as a sniffle, and wonder how they do it? While it may be due to a hardy constitution or good luck, lifestyle also plays a part.

1. They wash their hands frequently. Washing your hands is one of the most important things you can do to avoid bugs. Viruses that cause respiratory illnesses can live for up to eight hours on surfaces such as door handles, so it’s easy to end up sick if you touch an infected surface and then touch your mouth or nose. Frequently washing your hands with antibacterial soap or using a disinfecting sanitiser – especially after you’ve been in a public place, and always before eating – will greatly reduce your chances of picking up a bug.

2. They stay hydrated. Because our bodies are mostly made up of water, being dehydrated puts extra stress on our systems. Mucus in our bodies becomes drier and thicker, and less able to cope against invading bacteria and viruses. Try to drink at least 1.5 litres of water a day.

A lack of sleep can make us more prone to infection because our bodies aren’t able to recharge properly.

3. They get a good night’s sleep. A lack of sleep can make us more prone to infection because our bodies aren’t able to recharge properly. Our immune system is good at fighting off viruses, but if we are sleep deprived or stressed it can’t work at its full capacity. Seven or eight hours a night is usually recommended.

4. They don’t rely on supplements. While some supplements, such as vitamin C and echinacea, can help our bodies to battle common winter bugs, expecting them to keep you well if you are leading an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle is unrealistic. To get the best results, you should be eating a balanced diet that provides lots of vitamins and minerals via food and topping up with supplements of whatever you may be lacking.

Remaining active during winter pays dividends when it comes to staying healthy.

5. They keep moving. When the weather is cold and miserable, often the last thing we feel like doing is exercising. But being physically active pays dividends when it comes to staying healthy in winter because it increases the number of “natural killer” cells in the bloodstream. These cells travel around the body, hunting and killing invaders such as bacteria and viruses.

6. They eat zinc-rich foods. This mineral plays a key part in helping to boost the immune system and fight colds. Food sources include meat, oysters, eggs, seafood and tofu. When eaten with vitamin C, zinc packs even more of a punch.

7. They have a flu shot. Unfortunately, being fit and healthy will not protect you from influenza – you can get the virus and it can make you seriously ill. Having a vaccination that targets the current strains of flu will not only reduce your chances of getting ill, it will mean you won’t pass it on to more vulnerable people, such as babies, the elderly or those with a medical condition, who are more likely to have serious complications if they contract the flu. Sadly, there is no vaccination for the common cold.

Take a look at these five tips for a better night’s sleep here.

Image: Paul Suesse/

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