With this week’s cold weather it seems winter is truly upon us and there as people cluster inside to avoid the icy temperatures so the likelihood of getting sick increases. Here are six ways that you can dramatically lower your chances of catching a cold or flu this year.
Take care of yourself
Eating healthy, exercising and making sure you get plenty of sleep is never more important than during flu season. Following the basic guide to a healthy lifestyle will mean that your body’s own natural defences are at their highest strength. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and exercise have both been scientifically proven to boost your immune system so they are essential at this time of year.
Wash your hands
Colds and flus are spread by viruses that spray out as droplets every time a sick person sneezes and settle on surfaces whenever they touch anything. As a result one of the best ways to avoid picking up a cold is to make sure those droplets never come anywhere near your own nose and mouth. The solution is to wash your hands. Often. More than you think. And when you do wash your hands, make sure to do it thoroughly. To completely get rid of viruses from your skin, you need to scrub hard for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. The temperature of the water is irrelevant, what’s important is that you wash properly.
Avoid sick people
This feels like obvious advice, but it’s not always easy. For some reason people seem to think coming in to work when they are sick is helping. Avoid contact with sick people by refusing to shake hands, or hug, and try to stand back when speaking to them. According to the American Centre for Disease Control a sick person can infect anyone within a six-foot radius or just under two metres, so keep your distance.
According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2004, smoking increases the risk of infections by making structural changes in the respiratory tract and decreasing the immune response. It also destroys the little hairlike fibres inside our noses, called cilia, which protect the body from external influences, and can, therefore, increase the risk of contracting an illness.
Do things that make you happy
Patting animals, playing games, and even just thinking positively are all activities that can make you happy, and being happy has been linked with a stronger immune system. Better yet, Dr Carl Charnetski, MD, a professor of psychology at Wilkes University, conducted a study in which he showed that people engaging in sexual activity once or twice a week have substantially higher levels of the antibody Immunoglobulin A (IgA) than individuals reporting no sexual activity or less than one occurrence a week.
Get a flu shot
Flu and the common cold share many symptoms, but they are in fact quite different. While colds are annoying they aren’t inherently risky, while flu is generally far more intense, and can result in other, sometimes life-threatening, health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, and hospitalisations. In fact, flu is responsible for around 140,000–710,000 hospitalisations and 12,000–56,000 deaths annually. Getting a flu shot is proven to be the single best thing that you can do to protect yourself from severe illness.
Flu vaccines trigger antibodies to develop in the body, which provides protection against the three or four strains of flu infection contained in the vaccine.