Winter is the season for colds and flu.
And after our exceptionally mild autumn, people won’t be used to dressing warmly for the winter weather.
Here, we look at some ways you can minimise your risk of catching colds and flu.
Granny was right – keeping warm can help you avoid coughs, colds and flu.
Shivering depresses the immune system and this makes us more likely to catch colds.
Also, we lose up to 30% of our body heat through our heads – so wear a hat!
Although most infections are mainly carried in the air, germs can be transmitted by physical contact and enter the body when infected hands touch vulnerable parts like our eyes, mouths and noses.
These areas offer easy access to invading germs despite being equipped with defence mechanisms such as mucous and hairs.
Washing hands often can significantly reduce the chances of catching a virus, especially the rotavirus, which tends to infect children and causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
Low cloud, dull and misty conditions tend to bring an increase in germs.
Viruses survive longer when the weather is moist.
This is the time when you’re more likely to catch something – although you may not notice you’ve done so until ten to 12 days later, the incubation period for many colds and coughs.
Crowded trains and buses with little ventilation, department stores bustling with shoppers, and people gathering for parties all make catching a cold more likely.
Central heating reduces our defences and affects the respiratory system by drying out the protective mucous in our nasal passages.
The dry, stuffy air of central heating can also lead to sore throats and aggravate chest complaints like asthma.
If your immune system needs pepping up to withstand the winter onslaught of germs, Echinacea should be an integral part of your daily routine.
It is popularly used to boost the immune system in fighting colds and flu, and also as an agent to help heal viral and bacterial infections.
The mineral zinc is essential to help fight colds and provide a boost to a flagging immune system.
Garlic helps ease chest complaints, and small amounts taken daily may also reduce the frequency of colds and flu.
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.
Lack of sleep makes us more prone to infection.
Moods also affect our ability to fight off infections, and if you feel stressed you are more likely to become ill compared to when you’re feeling buoyant, happy and relaxed.
Don’t underestimate the importance of regular activity, especially in winter.
Regular moderate exercise increases our circulation, which in turn brings more oxygen and nutrients around the body leading to healthier organs.
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.
Studies have shown that taking probiotic supplements can improve the body’s resistance to bacterial and viral infections.