As the colder months roll in, they bring with them the inevitable cold and flu season. Coughs and runny noses are a nuisance, and flu can be debilitating and dangerous for many people. There’s also the added threat of coronavirus, so supporting your immune system and reducing the risk is more important than ever.
This is one of the best things you can do to reduce the chance of picking up and passing on bugs. Make sure to always wash your hands before you eat or touch your face, and scrub for at least 20 seconds, getting between every finger and not forgetting your thumbs.
Its a good idea for everyone to get a flu jab even if you’re younger or not at increased risk because of other health conditions. Catching flu means you’re more likely to pass it on to others and thus increase the spread to more vulnerable people. If you’re over 50 or have certain health conditions, you can get a flu vaccine for free on the NHS. If you qualify for a covid booster jab, this is also something you should book to help reduce the spread and protect yourself from falling seriously ill. Getting flu and covid at the same time would also mean you're more likely to be very ill.
Even though regulations around mask-wearing have changed, they’re still very effective at reducing the spread of flu and covid in enclosed and busy places. Keeping a couple of masks with you when you’re out is a good idea if you want to go into a busy shop or you’re using public transport.
While we may feel less inclined to drink water in the cold winter months, it’s just as important to stay hydrated as when it’s hot. If a cold glass of water just doesn’t appeal, remember that hot drinks like tea and coffee also count – though naturally it’s not good to up your intake of caffeine. Try hot water with honey and lemon as a warming alternative.
The lack of sunshine in the winter, and your skin being more covered up because of the cold, means most of us don’t get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced in the body when sunlight hits the skin, and is important in supporting the immune system as well as many other processes in the body. Taking a daily vitamin D supplement can be a good idea to help get the nutrients you need when you can’t rely on the sun.
Winter and the festive season can easily end up meaning a lot of over-indulgence. Treating yourself is fine in moderation, but it’s also important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to make sure your body has all the nutrients and vitamins it needs. This will help to keep your immune system working at its peak and fighting off those winter bugs.
It can be so hard to stay active and get out for walks when it’s cold and miserable, especially if you have to deal with winter joint pains, but it’s important to keep moving and doing exercise. If the outdoors just doesn’t appeal, choose activities indoors such as swimming or the gym, or even just going for a walk around and indoor shopping centre or a museum in the warm and dry.