Flu tends to get stronger each year and everyone knows of a friend or relative who falls victim to it once a year without fail. The symptoms of flu will usually level off after two to three days and you should begin to feel much better within five to eight days. However, you may have a lingering cough and still feel very tired for a further two to three weeks.
Common cold infections are so widespread that there can be very few humans who escape infection each year
Adults with regular contact with children are most exposed to a flu infection
Here are 8 top tips to avoid the dreaded flu and if followed you may save yourself from having a few extra days in bed for the wrong reason!
1. Wash your hands regularly
When someone with flu coughs or sneezes, germ droplets spread over a one metre radius – and can survive for up to 24 hours on door handles, remote controls, computer keyboards and telephones, making the virus easy to pick up. Remember to wash under your nails and between your fingers, with warm soap and water, if you’re out and about, carry an antiseptic hand sanitizer with you for cleaning hands on the go.
2. Drink Plenty and stay hydrated
It is recommended that we drink about eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy. Water helps the kidneys function properly and flushes out the toxins that accumulate in our bodies. If you have a cold, being dehydrated makes your mucus drier and thicker and less able to cope against invading bacteria and viruses. If you’ve already caught a cold, drinking plenty of fluids will help flush out the infection.
3. Take Vitamins and probiotics
Taking a daily multivitamin is especially important in the winter when we may be less likely to be eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables, and are also more at risk from infection. Research shows that viruses can’t survive in cells containing high levels of Vitamin C – a 150ml glass of orange contains 55mg of vitamin C.
Probiotics, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, are ‘friendly’ bacteria in our intestines and increasingly recognised for their importance not only in maintaining a healthy digestive system, but for improving the body’s natural defence mechanisms.
Studies have shown that taking probiotic supplements can improve the body’s resistance to bacterial and viral infections.
4. Eat well and keep the flu at bay
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables can help you avoid many health problems. Foods rich in vitamins A and C such as citrus fruit, dark blue and red berries, mangoes, apricots, carrots and beetroot support the immune system. Whether you are sick with the flu or not, protein is always necessary to keep your body strong. Proteins are essential to help your body maintain and build strength. Lean meat, poultry, fish, legumes, dairy, eggs, and nuts and seeds are good sources of protein.
5. Avoid Stress
Prolonged periods of stress can make you more prone to catching flu. High stress levels weaken your immunity to flu and give you worse symptoms if you catch it. Try yoga, deep breathing and meditation or a regular, long soak in a warming bath to stay calm.
6. Exercise often
The increased immune activity brought on by exercise only lasts for about three hours, but the cumulative effect seems to keep disciplined exercisers healthier than most. As the days add up, it adds up to improved protection from viruses that can make you sick. It’s also possible that people who exercise frequently tend to lead healthy lifestyles in general, and are therefore less likely than couch potatoes to get sick.
When moderate exercise is repeated on a near daily basis, there is a cumulative immune-enhancing effect, which leads to a sustained response by the immune system to illness. When you exercise, your white blood cells (the blood cells that fight infections in the body) travel through your body more quickly, fighting bacteria and viruses (such as flu) more efficiently.
7. Get a Flu Jab
Flu vaccination by injection, commonly known as the “flu jab” is available every year on the NHS to protect adults (and some children) at risk of flu and its complications.
Flu can be unpleasant, but if you are otherwise healthy it will usually clear up on its own within a week. Studies have shown that the flu jab definitely works and will help prevent you getting the flu. However, it won’t stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary between people, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free.
Over time, protection from the injected flu vaccine gradually decreases and flu strains often change. So, new flu vaccines are produced each year which is why people advised to have the flu jab need it every year too. The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, from the beginning of October to early November, but don’t worry if you’ve missed it, you can have the vaccine later in winter if there are stocks left.
8. Sleep well
Lack of sleep makes us more prone to infection and its not a matter of simply sleeping for longer, as some people can have fewer than seven hours’ sleep every night and not suffer at all. Getting less than seven hours’ sleep in the weeks before exposure to a cold virus can make you three times more likely to develop a respiratory illness than if you’d clocked eight hours or more each night.
Flu – Further information
For more guidance and information on how to avoid the flu this winter please visit the NHS website section on Flu Symptoms which has good information.