Gemma McCaw's 7 tips to fending off the flu

Getting sick in winter isn't inevitable. Here's how to breeze through our coldest months.

It's that time of year when we often pick up those pesky winter coughs and colds. But getting sick isn't inevitable.
The key to staying healthy over the winter months is all about prevention and investing in healthy habits. To fortify yourself against colds, prioritise your health and hygiene this winter so sickness won't slow you down.

Get immunised

Having the flu vaccine is particularly important for people who are at high risk of developing flu-related complications (for example, infants, pregnant women, people over 65 or those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease). The vaccine is between 70-90% effective, depending on the intensity and length of the flu season.

Get plenty of nutrients

A colourful diet rich in veges and fruit can help boost your immunity. Try consuming plenty of vitamin C with leafy greens, cauliflower, capsicums and citrus fruits, along with vitamin D boosters such as eggs, fish and mushrooms (and get some rays of sunshine when possible).
Good digestion is crucial for immunity, so consuming probiotics will keep your gut healthy. Try to avoid excess sugar, which can play havoc with your digestion and immune systems.

Get plenty of sleep

Have you ever noticed that after late nights, you tend to get sick? Bedtime is when your body repairs itself and recovers from the day you've had. During sleep, the body allocates energy to the immune system to support it. Prioritising slumber and having a consistent sleep schedule will enable you to feel good and function well.

Drink plenty of water

Although you may not feel as thirsty as you do in summer, drinking water helps remove toxins from our bodies. Ease up on caffeine, alcohol and soft drinks as these can all dehydrate you.
You'll fight off illness easier if you are well hydrated. Try to limit alcohol especially as heavy drinking can suppress the immune system.

Avoid germs

Along with keeping all your household surfaces clean, make sure you do the same for your work area as germs spread more easily in tight spaces. Avoid unnecessary sharing of drinks, cups, kids' toys, utensils and towels with people who are sick as these can become a breeding ground for germs.

Get some exercise

Exercise not only keeps you fit, helps you de-stress and increases circulation, but it also boosts your immune system. Better circulation allows antibodies to travel through the bloodstream quicker, helping your immune system fight off an illness. Research indicates that those who exercise regularly get fewer and less severe colds – plus they take less time off work!

Wash your hands

This is your top defence. Good hygiene is essential as colds and flus are spread through coughing and sneezing, or surfaces that have become infected. Some hearty cold viruses can survive for up to several days on hands, tables and doorknobs. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water is vital, especially before eating and after coughing, sneezing or having contact with others. If you can't get to a sink, carry hand sanitiser with you.

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