Avoid flu this winter


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November saw the annual freeze settle in for the long, dark winter – and with it, familiar ailments such as cold or flu. These viruses spread easily when people generously share them through a careless cough, sneeze or kiss. Causal germs can be picked up from various surfaces (you’d be surprised by the range of bugs loitering on door handles, tube rails, or the average countertop).

The good news is that just because it’s cold and flu season, it doesn’t mean you have to catch one. Below are six ways to protect yourself from those viral nasties floating about or lurking on common surfaces:

1. Get a flu jab: Ask your local pharmacist or GP how.

2. Wash your hands: Use soap and water before touching your nose, eyes or mouth.

3. Avoid sharing towels or the same household items, e.g cups, as someone who is sick.

4. Keep warm: wear extra layers of clothing, especially if you’re out and about. Good quality, waterproof coat, scarf, hat and footwear are basic winter essentials.

5. Eat well. Boost your immune system by consuming the recommended doses of vitamins, particularly vitamin D and C. Green vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens and citrus fruit are rich sources of vitamin C. For vitamin D, look to fatty fish, cheese or egg yolk; some dairy products, orange juice and cereals are also fortified with vitamin D. Supplements also provide a good source. Keep yourself hydrated.

6. Sleep well. Your body needs good quality sleep to heal, refresh and regenerate itself. Adequate sleep helps to optimise your immune system functioning, and prevent respiratory viruses like flu.

If all else fails, if you do manage to snag a cold or flu bug, instead of rushing off to the GP, urgent treatment centre or A&E, head to your local pharmacist. They are fully trained and able to advise you on the best medicines to help you fight off whatever ‘lurgy you’ve contracted. Older people, young children or people with respiratory conditions may be more vulnerable to cold or flu; if that’s you, it’s best to head to your GP if you begin to develop symptoms.