So is it inevitable you’ll catch it too – as you socialise at festive parties and rush around in the cold trying to fit everything in before Christmas – or is it possible to defend your immune system and avoid it?
Well, it seems some of us are more susceptible than others, say if we are tired, run-down, or suffer from other conditions.
Dr. Nadja Auerbach, at Thriva says: “People with some medical conditions are at increased risk of infections. For example, people with conditions like asthma, COPD, and diabetes, or who are immunosuppressed.”
For them, staying safe is essential, and they should seek advice from a doctor on how to protect themselves. But, for people without medical conditions, “lifestyle can have a big effect on your immunity”, says Auerbach.
So, how can we avoid catching these horrible germs?
Yes, sometimes just kicking back can help protect our immune systems.
Being more vulnerable can come from “everyday occurrences such as too much stress and not getting enough sleep”, she says.
So, don’t be afraid to hibernate this winter and destress from the busy year. Spending some time on your own will also reduce the number of people you may be exposed to.
Drink more water and less booze
If you are regularly “getting dehydrated, and binge drinking,” you are making yourself more vulnerable, according to Auerbach. It may be difficult when so much of the season is spent eating and drinking, but make sure you are having a bit of balance, and drinking plenty of water too will help lower your risk of getting sick.
“A lifestyle with healthy habits is key in minimising your chances of getting an infection,” she says.
Eat immune-boosting foods
“The best approach is to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” says Dr. Rhianna McClymont, GP at Livi. “All the usual suspects – lean meat, fish, grains, pulses, and five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
“Try to have a mix of colours on your plate. The wider the variety of colours you eat, the more types of phytochemicals [the chemical compound produced by plants] you consume, which are essential for fighting inflammation in the body,” she says.
“If you don’t always have the fresh foods in, stock up on a few portions of frozen or tinned fruit and veg. This alternative is just as nutritious as fresh because it’s frozen so quickly after being picked.”
Try vitamin supplements or prioritise vitamin-rich food
“To go one step further, make sure your diet includes a mix of vitamins and minerals associated with a strong immune system,” says McClymont.
She suggests: “Vitamin A – which can be found in liver, milk and cheese, and green leafy vegetables. Also try to prioritise vitamin C – found in oranges, tomatoes, kiwis, blackcurrants, peppers, and broccoli. [And] vitamin D – found in oily fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.”
Lesser known vitamins try and include more of in your diet including zinc, “found in meat, poultry, eggs, cheese”, she says. “As well as root veg, nuts and seeds, and selenium which can be found in wholegrain bread, eggs, poultry, fish and shellfish.”
Wear a mask and wash your hands
“Masks, particularly in mass use, can reduce the risk of airborne infections,” says Dr. Sanjay Mehta, GP at The London General Practice, “which is the route of transmission of many of the infections currently sharply rising in the UK. Regular handwashing can further reduce the transmission risk too.”
Stay on top of vaccines and boosters
“Many viruses and other infection-causing bugs make it through this initial barrier [of masks and hand santisation] and into the body, so looking after your immune system is just as important, to maximise your defence,” says Mehta. “That includes keeping up-to-date with the annual influenza (flu) jab and covid boosters, which helps to reduce the risk of transmission and severity of such infections.”