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Your cold and flu survival guide

Monday, 24 May 2021 / Topics:

Your cold and flu survival guide

Winter is just around the corner which means cold and flu season isn't far behind! As COVID-19 continues to linger, "soldiering on" with a runny nose, croaky voice or sore throat is no longer going to get you a pat on the back but rather a sea of concerned faces, querying looks and a COVID test. 

Staying healthy, especially during the cooler months is more important than ever. A healthy and strong immune system is the best way to fight off the nasty germs and bacteria that leave us unwell. To help keep you healthy, we’ve put together a five-step cold and flu survival guide to boost your immune system and keep those winter sniffles at bay.     

Step 1: Get your Zzz’s

Research has shown a strong link between sleep and proper immune function. This means that getting enough shut-eye each night can help reduce your chances of falling ill. We all know the importance of sleep, yet it’s often the first thing we sacrifice when we’re busy, stressed or simply just have things to do. Life is busy - we get it! Often there’s more on our to-do list then there are hours in a day and sleep seems to be the easiest thing to give up to fit it all in.  However, to get your immune system into tip-top shape you need to ensure you’re getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night. Not only is sleep important for our immune system, a good night’s sleep also comes with higher energy levels, increased motivation, increased ability to focus and increased productivity. On top of all that, sleep helps our mind and body rest and recover which improves both our mental and physical health. This winter, make sleep a priority and put it at the top of your to do list.


Step 2: Catch those rays

When your skin is exposed to sunlight it produces vitamin D from cholesterol. Although vitamin D is best known for its role in bone health, it also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. In fact, some research has found that people with low vitamin D levels are more likely to catch the common cold and flu. Vitamin D is also important for mental health and low levels have been associated with seasonal depression, so if you’re feeling those winter blues you might just be lacking vitamin D.  

Although we obtain some vitamin D from certain foods such as egg yolks, oily fish and fortified products, 90-95% of our vitamin D is obtained from the action of sunlight on our skin. During winter, it’s harder to get enough vitamin D as the days are shorter, we spend more time indoors and when we do spend time outdoors we’re often rugged up with little skin in sight. This likely explains why around 30% of Australians become vitamin D deficient in the winter months. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D this winter by making an effort to spend some time outdoors each day – you only need 15 minutes of sun exposure to meet your requirements! Simple steps such as taking your lunch break outdoors or squeezing in some extra walking time by parking your car further away from the office will have you well on your way to meeting your vitamin D needs. 


Step 3: Bump up your C intake

Vitamin C is an antioxidant well known for its role in supporting a healthy immune system. When most people think of vitamin C they often think of citrus fruits and orange juice but vitamin C can also be found in an abundance of other fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and kiwi fruit to name a few. Vitamin C is not stored in the body and therefore dietary sources of vitamin C must be consumed daily. Consuming a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C is the best way to meet your daily requirements. 

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which means that using wet cooking methods such as boiling can cause the vitamin to leach out of the food into the water. Therefore, to get the most vitamin C out of your veggies, choose cooking methods such as roasting, sautéing and stir-frying. If you’re feeling like something fresh, why not try boosting the vitamin C in your salad by jazzing it up with citrus fruits, perhaps orange with fennel or pink grapefruit with avocado and rocket?


Step 4: Keep on sipping

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: drink more water! Water is essential for your body to function at it’s best and adequate hydration has a huge impact on your immune function. The average person needs around two litres of water each day for optimal hydration. In the cooler months, drinking water throughout the day can be tricky to remember since we generally don’t feel as thirsty. To help you reach your daily requirements why don’t you try setting yourself a challenge? Perhaps you could keep a large jug of water on your desk and aim to finish it by the time you leave work, or you could challenge yourself to finish one litre by lunch time. Whatever the case, the important thing is just to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water daily.


Step 5: Make time for “me time”

Stress is a normal part of life and in small doses it can actually be good for us. However, prolonged stress can be detrimental, wreaking havoc on the immune system and making you more susceptible to catching a cold. If you’re feeling stressed, or even if you’re not, make sure to set aside some ‘me time’ each day to de-stress and recharge. Whether it’s taking hot bath, starting a new book, drinking a warm cup of tea or getting outside for a quick walk, make sure you get some “me time” each day, even if it’s just 10 minutes, so you can do what you want to do instead of what you have to do.