Top 10 Ways To Help Avoid The Flu This Season16 January 2019
It’s that time of the year when the dreaded flu strikes. We all want to avoid it, so what are the best ways to avoid the influenza illness? We’ve put together our top tips to help you minimise the risk of infection.
1. Don’t Share
Avoid, wherever possible, people who may already have the flu. That isn’t always easy, especially since the flu virus can hang out on our hands, or the surfaces of things we touch, for up to 24 hours.
However, a good precaution is to avoid sharing food and things like plates, cups, forks, or phones. (And it’s probably a good idea not to share a kiss with someone who has the flu!) Keeping communal areas clean and disinfected, where necessary, will help too.
Anyone who has a virus should avoid spreading it by following the advice in the NHS “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” campaign; make sure you cough or sneeze into a tissue, dispose of it immediately and wash your hands.
2. Love Your Hands
Keep your hands extra clean to help protect yourself against viruses like the flu this winter. This means washing hands effectively before preparing food, eating and drinking, or touching your nose and mouth.
Effective hand washing means plenty of soap, running water (as hot as you find comfortable) and washing thoroughly for twenty seconds. (Try timing yourself, that’s much longer than you might think!)
Dry thoroughly and then moisturise if necessary, to prevent chapped skin and keep your hands as healthy as possible.
3. Eat Your Greens
In fact, eat a whole rainbow! When you can’t avoid the flu virus, you can at least boost your immune system to protect yourself against it. A diet full of fruit and vegetables ranging in colour, will ensure a good mix of virus-busting vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.
Some fruit and vegetables, are extra high in anti-oxidants, especially useful in the battle against winter viruses, including the flu. These include all kinds of berries, beans, artichoke and kale, plus walnuts and hazelnuts. Things like garlic and ginger are great for improving your chances of avoiding the flu this winter, too. Or at least recovering much quicker, if you do succumb!
We know it’s sometimes hard to eat the recommended minimum of 5 portions a day, but juices, smoothies and soups can help here.
4. Get Out More
Getting out into the fresh air, especially into nature, is a great way to boost our own ability to fight infection, by supporting our immune systems.
Numerous studies have proven that nature also has health benefits including lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, increasing energy levels and improving sleep patterns, all of which play a part in a highly effective immune system.
In fact, spending time in nature is so good for us, that GPs in Shetland are now giving NHS Nature Prescriptions to their patients.
5. Drink Lots
Drink lots of water, that is! Aim to drink at least 8 glasses a day, because drinking plenty of water also strengthens our immune systems.
Water helps to prevent us from catching a cold or the flu, by carrying oxygen to the cells in our bodies as well as flushing out toxins. Plus, water hydrates the mucus membranes in our nose, so they can provide an effective defence against pesky winter bugs.
Drinking plenty of water also supports a speedy recovery, if we do come down with a virus.
6. Keep Calm
Another thing that’s often tricky. Especially this time of year, when days are short and dark, and winter weather is sometimes brutal. And always unpredictable. Our jobs can be extra demanding, the school holidays aren’t far away and we might also have preparations for festive celebrations coming up too. Phew!
The last thing we need is anyone in the house coming down with flu on top of it all!
But stress has a huge negative impact on our immune systems, making us more likely to come down with a bug, so try to take some regular time out for rest and relaxation.
7. Get a Great Night’s Sleep
Good sleep is essential for a healthy immune system, so plays another big part in helping us to avoid catching the flu. Or to recover from it as quickly as possible.
Good sleep, for most people, means an average of eight hours unbroken sleep. Protect your sleep by keeping your room cool, dark and comfortable. Turn tech off, wherever possible and avoid caffeine, alcohol or heavy meals in the evening.
Develop a bedtime routine that you can stick to, including some wind-down activities, like a warm bath, yoga and meditation, or reading for half an hour.
8. Fortify Yourself
Give your immune system some extra protection with a good multivitamin and make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D (you can ask your doctor for a blood test.) Spending as much time as possible in natural daylight will help Vitamin D levels too.
Consider taking echinacea at the first sign of a cold or the flu, or increasing your Vitamin C levels.
Increasing your levels of water and rest at this point can also help to head off a virus.
9. Vaccinate Yourself
Well, not literally, of course! But do get this season’s flu vaccination as soon as possible. Particularly if you’re in a vulnerable group, or you care for someone in a vulnerable group (pregnant women, people over the age of 65 and people with serious health problems).
According to Public Health England, getting vaccinated is the very best way you can avoid the flu this winter. However, be aware that a vaccination cannot protect you against every strain of influenza, so you should probably try all these other flu prevention tactics, too!
If you live in the Hull area, then we can provide you with a private flu jab in our clinic. There’ll be no big queues, and an appointment for a time that suits you.
10. Speed Up Your recovery
If you do get the flu, remember that a couple of days away from work is better than a few weeks of feeling wretched. Try and rest as much as you can. Eat well (perhaps soups, juices or smoothies, if you don’t feel up to food) and drink plenty of water.
Try supplementing this with some herbal teas (red berry or green tea are great). It’s also worth trying lemon and honey in warm water, as the lemons will add to your Vitamin C levels and the honey will soothe a sore throat.
Bryn is the director here at Atropa Pharmacy. With over a decade working in the pharmaceutical sector he aims to bridge the gap between care / support professionals and the pharmacy sector with a patient focused approach.