As we’re increasingly back out in the world, it’s becoming more challenging to avoid every cough, cold and bug doing the rounds.
Particularly if you have kids at school or are going into work, you’ll likely be thinking about how you can protect your immune system and avoid the dreaded winter lurgy.
If you have serious symptoms or those that persist, call your GP for advice. And if you are under the weather, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and perhaps even wearing a mask could help keep people safe around you.
With the winter lurgy seemingly everywhere, what can we do to keep ourselves safe and healthy?
“Getting plenty of quality sleep might seem like a surprising way to stay healthy, but a lack of sleep has an adverse effect on our immune system,” says Giulia Guerrini, lead pharmacist at digital pharmacy Medino.
“Research has shown that after being exposed to a virus, not getting enough sleep makes you more susceptible to falling ill. Additionally, not getting enough sleep while you’re sick can impact how quickly you’re able to make a full recovery.”
Prioritise nutrient-rich foods
Soup and stew season is upon us, so use this as an opportunity to prioritise healthy foods.
“Our bodies need a mixture of foods rich in fibre, plant-based foods and probiotics to maintain gut health,” suggests Guerrini.
“Oily fish, such as salmon, is a brilliant source of vitamin D, so a meal like grilled salmon with orange slaw is ideal for winter. Aside from bringing some zest to the meal, oranges are packed full of vitamin C, which is widely regarded as an immune-boosting super nutrient.
“Everyone has heard that eating five fruit and vegetables per day keeps the doctor away, and it’s impossible to deny that good nutrition is a great way to stay as healthy as possible. Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for this, due to its links to disease resistance – among many other amazing benefits. During the winter months, the sun sets earlier in the evening and due to a lack of exposure to the sun, our body naturally produces less vitamin D.”
Supplement your diet
If your diet isn’t giving you enough, it may be worth looking at supplements.
“My advice is everyone should make a conscious effort to consume enough vitamin D during winter, including taking supplements if required – although you should contact a medical professional by visiting your GP or speaking to one of our pharmacists to discuss your vitamin levels first,” suggests Guerrini.
“A lack of vitamin D is associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children and cancer – all incredibly serious conditions.”
Avoid heavy drinking
Many of us tend to drink more during Christmas party season, but that may actually be making us more susceptible to the lurgy.
“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a beverage or two after a long day’s work, but heavy drinking increases our risk of both bacterial and viral infections, such as Covid-19,” Guerrini says. “This is due to alcohol disrupting the communication between organs, which affects the function of the immune system and the intestinal immune system.”