Flu Season: you may have forgotten all about it or it may seem like it’s the only thing people are talking about, but when you feel that first scratchy tickle in your throat, that thought snowball comes rolling in fast ‘oh no, I can’t get ill now!’ Catching a cold or flu is never on our list of ‘to do’s’, but we can take steps in advance to prep our bodies and reduce our chances of succumbing to viral attacks. Who knows, you might even be able to slip under the radar this year…
Start with hygiene
So basic yet oh so easy to forget, but the number one advice your GP is likely to give you (and would probably like to sing from the rooftops) during flu season is to wash your hands frequently. Use soap and water, rubbing your hands for about 20 seconds (singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in your head twice takes about that time) – and teach your kids to do the same. Be mindful of surfaces that are likely to harbour viruses too – think probable culprits like doorknobs, computer keyboards and phones – and give those a clean on a regular basis.
For disinfecting on the go, try a homemade natural hand sanitiser with aloe vera and essential oils, like these two created by the Wellness Mama.
Give your body the best fuel
Feed your immunity
Help your body fend off viruses by giving it a daily dose of disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients – research shows that they play an important role in keeping our immune systems working optimally. Both are plentiful in fresh fruit and veggies, so up your daily intake by enjoying meals like green breakfast smoothies and hearty veg-packed soups. Probiotics have been shown to offer some immune-boosting benefits as well – try eating more live yoghurt or sauerkraut – while a recent study has hailed vitamin D as a cold and flu-busting hero. Supplementing with vitamin D has been shown to make the biggest difference for those left deficient through lack of sunlight – Northern Europeans take note!
Remember to stay hydrated too. Water keeps our first line of defence against viruses – the mucous membrane of the nose – moist and working properly. One study discovered that going from drinking only three glasses of water to downing eight glasses per day can make us five times less likely to come down with the sniffles.
Schedule enough sleep and exercise
Could snoozing just one extra hour per night cut down our chances of catching the common cold? A study comparing people who slept seven or less hours per night with those who slept eight hours or more found that the latter group were nearly three times less likely to develop a cold when exposed to a virus.
Regular aerobic exercise doesn’t only keep you fit but can power-up your immunity too. Five or more days of physical activity per week (as opposed to a sedentary lifestyle) can cut down the number of colds we catch in a year as well as the severity of symptoms when we do succumb. Going for a jog outside might be the least appealing thing when the weather takes a turn for the worse, but you could head to your local pool for a few laps or take up a fast-paced dance class instead.
Exercise is also a great way to relieve long-term stress – which is a significant risk factor when it comes to vulnerability to cold-causing viruses.
Know your remedies
So it’s happened… Despite your best efforts, you‘ve come down with the dreaded flu. But the game is not yet over. While you’re unlikely to stop the illness in its tracks, there are things you can do to feel a bit more comfortable and maybe even recover faster.
Skip the ibuprofen
Many of us rush to buy over the counter medicines at the first sign of a cold or a flu, but treating fevers and aches with painkillers may not be altogether helpful. One study showed that taking fever-reducing meds can prolong illness caused by a flu virus while another demonstrated that we’re more likely to spread viruses to others when we pop pills to bring down a fever.
Consider natural remedies
If possible, it’s usually best to let a fever run its course (it is, after all, part of our body’s natural defence mechanism) and soothe our symptoms in other ways. Various natural remedies are available and many of us have our personal favourites. Scientific evidence in many cases remains inconclusive, but some of the remedies said to shorten the duration of colds include vitamin C supplements, garlic, ginger and Echinacea.
Curcumin (a component of turmeric) has shown promise as a flu treatment in a number of studies. To test it out for yourself, try adding some to your food or enjoy a mug of turmeric latte: heat up a cup of milk (try almond milk for a delicious alternative) and mix with a teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of cinnamon and a natural sweetener like maple syrup to taste.
Rest your body and mind
Put your feet up
We may be eager to get on with our tasks even when we’re ill, but we’ll give our bodies a better chance to clear infections faster when we rest – trying to do too much could even make our illness more severe. So take a nap, grab a novel you’ve been meaning to read or check what’s new on Netflix, and get back to those projects once you’re fighting fit again.
Drink up – again
If staying properly hydrated is important for preventing colds, it’s also true for recovery. It’s especially important if you have a fever, so keep a bottle of water handy or sip on herbal teas. If you haven’t got too much of an appetite, go for clear soups and broths to give you some calories as well as added fluids.
Meditate for comfort
While meditation may not actually wipe away our aches and pains, it can nonetheless help us cope better with cold and flu symptoms. A study that looked at the effects of a meditation practice on episodes of cold and flu reported that people who practice mindfulness find their quality of life better during bouts of illness compared to people who don’t. (Sometimes we wonder if there’s anything meditation isn’t good for.)0