How to avoid getting flu this winter

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The numbers are against you… about 15% of the population will get flu each winter. Flu, as we know, shouldn’t be messed with. Exercising when ill uses energy your body needs to fight the infection, and could lead to dehydration and heart damage. If you get bitten by the bug you will need to adjust your habits. But how do you prevent getting it in the first place?

#1 Watch how much you exercise

The good news is that moderate exercise boosts your immune system. It does this because it keeps the white blood cells moving from the organs (where the infection occurs) into the bloodstream where it can then be disposed of. But intense exercise can make you more susceptible to infection because of the stress on the body. To keep things in check, and reduce your chances of getting flu, eat a nutritious meal after a workout, stay hydrated, get out of damp clothes a.s.a.p. and get plenty of rest.

#2 Keep your hands clean

You need to do more than the post-bathroom hand wash in winter – wash your hands with soap several times a day. For how long? As long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”, so hum it along to ensure you clean up correctly. Shaking hands may be considered polite in our culture, but it’s a big bug spreader. Give a little bashful wave instead and say you think you may be coming down with something. And keep your hands away from your mouth, hands and eyes – these are ideal receptors for the nasties you may have picked up.

#3 Get the shot

It only takes a minute and a few bucks – having the influenza vaccination will reduce your chances of getting flu by 60%. There’s good cause to have it annually – its wanes with time so it becomes less effective and each batch is updated to cover the new strains of virus. Think you’re fit and healthy so you don’t need the shots? Secondary infections – such as sinus or chest infections that can result from a round of flu – may require antibiotics. Recent research has shown that certain types of antibiotics can raise your risk for harmful side effects like tendonitis or even a full-blown tendon rupture.

#4 Tweak your diet

You want your immune system in tip-top condition to contend with that hacking co-worker or blasting air conditioner in the office. Cut down on your sugar intake as it decreases the functioning of your immune system. Prevention magazine also recommends you add the following to your diet:

  • Yoghurt – Probiotics, or the “live active cultures” found in yoghurt, are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs.
  • Shellfish – Selenium helps white blood cells produce cytokines – proteins that help clear flu viruses out of the body.
  • Tea – People who drank 5 cups a day of black tea for 2 weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who drank a placebo hot drink, in a Harvard study.
  • Beef – Even mild zinc deficiency can increase your risk of infection. A serving of lean beef provides about 30% of the Daily Value (DV) for zinc. 
  • Mushrooms – Mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive.


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