Winter is coming. And along with it, flu – a more formidable opponent than any Game of Thrones villain. While we know that flu will rear its feverish, exhausting, aching head every winter, what is unpredictable is the severity of the outbreak and the specific strains that will be causing havoc.
Indeed, last’s years flu season was the UK’s worst for 7 years. The H3N2 strain, or ‘Aussie Flu’, was found to be far more severe than the H1N1 strain that had circulated over the previous two seasons. This unpredictability stems from the fact that flu viruses constantly evolve as they pass from person to person, changing their appearance so our immune system struggles to recognise them.
It’s not completely clear which strains will be prevalent this winter, but each year the viruses are identified in advance and the World Health Organization recommends the type of flu virus strain that should be included in the vaccine.
So, flu may be unpredictable, but we’ve had a look at some easy ways of boosting your immunity before the flu season strikes to give you the best chance of avoiding the debilitating symptoms.
Make sure you’re getting your 7-8 of sleep a night to keep your defences going strong. While the relationship between sleep and immunity is complex, studies do show that sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function, while getting some shut-eye is also a key factor in recovery. So there is a good reason for that lie in.
Flu is extremely contagious so practicing good hygiene is vital. Indeed, a study from the American Society for Microbiology found that contamination of just a single doorknob results in a huge spread of viruses throughout office buildings – within 2 to 4 hours, the virus could be detected on 40 to 60% of workers in their study.
In addition to avoiding contact with those who are ill, make sure you cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and wash your hands thoroughly with soap or water, especially when you’ve been in a public space. Some say you should wash your hands as long as it takes you to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. Other songs are available.
Regular exercise can help with the performance of your immune system. Research from the University of California, San Diego has found that just 20 minutes of exercise can have anti-inflammatory effect that works to boost your immunity to colds and flu.
If even the thought of getting flu is making you worry – snap out of it! Stress hormones can make it difficult for your body to keep you healthy. Indeed, when stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol which can cause your body to struggle to regulate its inflammatory response and cause it to attack itself. Relaxation techniques, planning your tasks in advance and taking regular exercise can all help to relieve stress.
While a healthy diet is always a must, the following foods are particularly beneficial for boosting immunity to flu.
· Peppers and Citrus fruits. Both of these foods are great sources of vitamin C which provides support for your immune system.
· Garlic. If you can bear the smell, garlic, a member of the allium family (along with onions and leeks) can help to boost immunity.
· Mushrooms. Mushrooms provide many important vitamins (including vitamin D), minerals and enzymes.
· Green Tea. A good alternative to coffee due to its lower caffeine content, green tea has been shown to boost the immune system.
· Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains an antioxidant called theobromine which can protect your body’s cells from ‘free radicals’ – molecules the body produces when it breaks down food that can damage the body’s cells. Don’t get too excited though, chocolate is high in saturated fat and calories, so be sure to eat it in moderation.
But while these tips can boost your immunity to the flu, the best way to protect yourself is a flu vaccine. While the flu vaccine is available on the NHS for young children and those who are pregnant, suffering from certain medical conditions and aged 65 and over, Qured provides a easy and affordable flu vaccination service at home or in the office for those who do not fall within this bracket. Visit our website to find out more and to book a flu vaccination in the comfort of you own home.
We also run a workplace flu vaccination programme. Get in touch to find out how we can provide flu vaccinations for entire workforces at a highly competitive rate.