Winter is coming: And that means another flu season is almost upon us.
There are many winter health tips you can follow to prepare for the colder months and keep those lurgies at bay.
A number of lessons have been learned from the pandemic about best hygiene practices.
Many of these apply when it comes to avoiding those pesky coughs, colds and flus that sideline so many of us mid-year.
There are many harsher winters around the world than what we experience here in Adelaide.
But temperatures plunging into the low teens are more than cold enough to provide the perfect environment for viruses to spread.
Here are some basic guidelines to follow with a view to keeping you fit and healthy.
Get a Flu Shot
The flu season typically peaks during the winter months, so getting a flu shot can help protect you.
The peak season typically runs from June through September in Australia with maximum protection lasting three to four months.
May is therefore a good month to get the shot.
The vaccine is updated annually to battle the latest strains.
It can be purchased from vaccination providers including doctors and pharmacies and is free for a number of individuals including:
- Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islanders over the age of 6 months
- Children aged 6 months to 5 years
- Pregnant women
- Anyone aged 65 and over
- Anyone aged 6 months and over with a medical condition that leaves them more vulnerable to the disease (talk to your GP or vaccination provider to see if you qualify)
Wash your hands regularly
Respiratory infections are easily passed from one person to another by human contact.
Regular washing of hands has shown to reduce the likelihood of infection by as much as 20 per cent.
Wash your hands vigorously with soap and water to rid yourself of germs on your hands whenever you suspect you may have come into contact with them.
Hand sanitisers may be used as well but washing hands properly is the first line of defence.
Don’t touch your face
Even more importantly, don’t touch your face, spreading germs from your hands to a virus’s most common entry points, your eyes and nose.
It’s like giving germs an armchair ride into your body.
Avoiding contact with your face has been shown to reduce your chances of falling ill.
It’s also worth regularly disinfecting your phone, a common carrier of germs to your face.
Get plenty of sleep
Not getting enough sleep, overworking and becoming run down are all surefire ways to fall ill during winter.
A lack of sleep weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. You should be aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables is another key defence against winter illnesses.
They help boost your immune system and provide the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
You should be eating at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit every day.
This also lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Regular exercise can help boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve your overall health.
If it’s too cold or wet, consider indoor exercise options, such as going to a gym, taking a yoga class, or using a home workout video.
You should be exercising in some capacity for at least half an hour every day.
The Department of Health and Aged Care recommends adults aged 18-64 should be aiming for 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity per week, such as brisk walks, swimming or playing golf.
It also suggest a further 1.25-2.5 hours per week of more rigorous activity like jogging, fast cycling, aerobics or netball.
For seniors 65 years and older, at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate activity is advised.
We often don’t feel as thirsty in the cooler months but it is important to remain hydrated by drinking enough water.
This boosts our immune systems and keeps our skin hydrated as well as preventing constipation.
We need to replace the amount of water we lose daily.
For adults, that is normally around two litres.
Obey your thirst.
It may seem obvious but dressing appropriately and staying warm is important.
Medical research has proven that getting cold actually causes colds, especially when it is the temperature of our noses and our feet that drops.
Most viruses enter our bodies through our nasal membranes so stop rolling out the red carpet for them!
Warm, waterproof clothing and footwear will actually keep the winter nasties at bay when the wind is whipping off the southern ocean in July.
Buy a scarf and keep your nose warm too!
Some supplements have shown to be beneficial by reducing your chances of falling victim to the colds and flus or at least reducing their severity and duration.
Zinc – stops cold viruses from replicating. When taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, it has shown to reduce the duration of a cold by as much as 40 per cent. Be aware some people suffer mild side effects including nausea and a bad taste in their mouth.
Vitamin C – long a source of debate, the latest evidence reaffirms that routinely taking Vitamin C reduces the duration of a cold. It can also be taken without fear of side effects.
Vitamin D – research has shown people who don’t get enough are more prone to upper respiratory infections. Vitamin D is in some foods and comes free from the sun, which is why supplements during winter make good sense. Besides your immune system, it supports healthy teeth, bone health and calcium absorption.
Book an appointment
Following as many of these winter health tips as possible will give you the best chance of staying fit and healthy during the colder months.
Talk to your GP about getting a flu shot.
Ask if you qualify for a free one and learn what other steps you can take to maximise your chances of a healthy winter season.
If you haven’t had one recently, it might also be prudent to ask for a full check up.
This may include a simple blood test to help pick up any warning signs that need to be followed up.
Regular health checks should become more frequent with age.