Tips and tricks to staying healthy this winter!
Now that we are firmly into the month of November, we are officially in the colder and drearier days of the year. This ultimately means that be 5pm it is pitch black outside, rain is expected almost every other day – if not daily, and the dreaded flu season has begun – fantastic. During this time of the year, contracting some variation of the flu seems somehow inevitable, however Dr. Emma Crawley has come to our aid by giving us all the tips and tricks to getting through the season strong and healthy. Taking these small words of advice might simply save you this season, and of course as always if you have any other questions or queries, we are all just a phone call away!
Are there any vitamins/minerals we should have more of in the winter months?
It is recommended that adults and children over the age of one should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D, particularly during the autumn and winter period. People who have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency are advised to take a supplement all year round. Those ‘at-risk’ groups include people whose skin has little or no exposure to the sun, like those in care homes, or people who cover their skin when they are outside. A recent study looked into the use of vitamin D supplementation as a way of preventing acute respiratory tract infections such as flu, bronchitis and pneumonia. The study found vitamin D supplementation to be useful in the prevention of acute respiratory tract infection (reducing the risk by 12%).
Vitamins A,C and B complex (which contains up to 8 separate B vitamins) have all been shown to be beneficial during the winter months.
Vitamin C is probably the best known and has been shown to protect against cold viruses and help reduce the length and severity of colds. Sources of Vitamin C include a variety of fruit and vegetables, particularly broccoli, sprouts and oranges.
Vitamin A helps boost the immune system and can help improve the symptoms of dry skin, something that can commonly in the colder weather, often exacerbated by central heating. Good sources of vitamin A include cheese, eggs, oily fish, milk and yoghurt and liver products. It is important if taking vitamin A supplements, to stick to the recommended dose, as too much can be harmful, in particular, pregnant women should not supplement Vitamin A.
There are many different types of Vitamin B, the most well-known being folic acid, which all help maintain optimum body function. They can help reduce tiredness and fatigue as well as supporting immune function. Some good sources include eggs dairy, meat and fish.
What is the best way to prevent a cold?
You can reduce your risk of catching the common cold of flu, or spreading it to others with good hygiene measures;
-regularly washing your hands with soap and warm water
-frequent wiping of surfaces such as keyboards, door and telephone handles
-using tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and disposing of these in a bin as quickly as possible
-avoiding unnecessary contact with others while you are infectious, which may involve staying off school or work until you are feeling better.
What are some ways I can boost my bodies defence when it comes to the flu?
Five ways to stay healthier this winter include;
-Banish winter tiredness – many people feel tired and sluggish, due to a lack of sunlight, which disrupts our sleep and waking cycle. Try going to bed and waking at the same time every day to improve your sleep quality.
-Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption – aiming for at least five portions daily.
-Trying to minimise stress levels- using stress reduction techniques where possible
-Getting outside into natural daylight whenever possible- this will also help improve your sleep.
-Exercising- this will not only help general fitness, but will also help you reduce your stress levels and improve your sleep.
Why does flu season happen in colder months?
Both Flu and cold viruses are more prevalent during the winter months, for a number of reasons. Firstly, viruses live longer and spread more easily in cooler, drier air. Secondly people spend more time indoors in close proximity, aiding the spread of viruses (particularly small children at school for example).
What should I do when I feel as if I am coming down with a cold?
If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there is usually no need to see a doctor. The best remedy is to stay at home, keep warm and avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water. Taking over the counter medications such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can help to relieve aches and pains and lower temperatures. Those with flu symptoms (Fever >38, dry cough, headache, aching joints, extreme fatigue) should stay off work until you are feeling better and for the majority of people this will take about a week. A person with the flu is most infectious from the day the symptoms start and for a further three to seven days.
Is getting a flu jab a good idea?
Yes! Anyone can get the flu vaccine if they so wish but it is especially important for those in the ‘at risk groups’ (anyone over age 65 years, pregnant women, children and adults with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems, healthcare workers or those in close contact with ‘at risk individuals) to receive an annual flu vaccine. The best time to have the vaccine is in the Autumn, from the beginning of October onwards. One should get the vaccine every year to stay protected, as the viruses that cause the flu change every year.
Dr Emma Crawley
GP, Parsons Green