Over recent weeks you may have seen the TV advertising campaign encouraging you to get your flu and Covid booster jabs this winter.
As we begin to enter flu season, it’s never been more important to get yourself vaccinated. However, a jab is not the only way you can protect yourself against bugs and illness.
As we have learned over the last couple of years, there are many ways you can help to keep yourself safe from transmittable diseases. Here are 10 ways to stay cough and cold-free this winter.
1. Wear a mask
If you’ve kept hold of your face mask, then wearing it can help to protect you from both Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses.
Colds and flu can be transmitted through small droplets in the air – just like coronavirus. So, if you’re on public transport, in a GP surgery or hospital, or in a busy indoor environment then wearing a mask is a sensible precaution to take.
This is especially true if you’re at higher risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying health condition.
A mask also helps protect others when you cough or sneeze. Influenza viruses can travel up to 3.7 metres (around 12 feet) through the air after you cough or sneeze. So, you can reduce the risk of infecting others by covering your face when you sneeze or cough.
2. Consider taking supplements
Maintaining a good diet can help you to ward off coughs and colds. It can also help your body to fight them if you do catch them.
While an all-round healthy diet is good for your immune system, nutrients that are particularly important include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin B6 and zinc.
Other supplements such as echinacea and black elderberry extract can also help defend against colds and reduce their severity.
3. Get enough sleep
Making sure that you get enough sleep can help you to to prevent and fight colds as this is when the body is working at its hardest to fight infection. When you sleep, your body produces and releases cytokines — proteins that target infection and inflammation.
If you don’t get sufficient sleep, your immune system can be affected, and this reduces your body’s ability to fight infection. You may be more susceptible to sickness, and it might also affect how quickly you recover from illness.
4. Wash your hands regularly
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned about preventing the transmission of disease over the last 18 months, it’s this: wash your hands regularly.
You should clean your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – remember to sing “Happy Birthday” twice! – as this helps to prevent a wide range of diseases, not only those caused by respiratory viruses.
If you can’t wash your hands, use sanitiser that is at least 60% alcohol.
5. Take regular exercise
Regular exercise is important for the functioning of your immune system and can help you prevent you from catching a cold.
One theory is that exercise can help your immune cells travel more quickly around your body as it improves your circulation. Another suggests that the brief increase in your body temperature might help you fight infections better.
The NHS suggests that adults should do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. One way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least five days a week.
6. Eat more fibre
Dietary fibre has a range of health benefits, including regulating your digestion and lowering the risk of several health conditions.
A 2018 study in mice suggests that dietary fibre may also boost the immune system. Researchers compared the immune responses in mice that ate a low-fibre diet with those that ate a high-fibre diet. The findings suggest that the short-chain fatty acids present in dietary fibre enhanced the mice’s immunity to flu infections.
7. Avoid busy areas
One of the main reasons for repeated lockdowns in 2020 was to avoid the transmission of Covid-19. Avoiding busy areas with lots of people – particularly indoors – can therefore help you to avoid catching coughs and colds.
As you read above, if you do have to enter a busy area then consider wearing a face mask.
8. Ensure your rooms are well ventilated
When someone who has Covid-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release particles containing the virus. This is true of other transmissible diseases such as flu.
While larger droplets fall quickly to the ground, aerosols containing the virus can remain suspended in the air. And, if you breathe in these virus particles, you can become infected. Scientists call this “airborne transmission”.
If a room is poorly ventilated, the amount of virus in the air can build up. This increases the risk of spreading Covid-19 or other viruses, especially if there are lots of infected people in the room. The virus can also remain in the air after an infected person has left.
If you can ventilate a room to bring in fresh air, it will remove the older stale air that contains virus particles and reduce the chance of spreading an illness. The more fresh air you can bring inside, the quicker any airborne virus will be removed from the room.
9. Disinfect your phone
According to the Daily Express, the average Brit spends almost three and a half hours on their phone every day.
Think of all the places you put your phone down – your desk, the kitchen counter, the sink in the bathroom, and your restaurant table. It's no surprise that it can pick up germs. Indeed, a 2012 University of Arizona study found that mobile phones may carry 10 times the amount of bacteria than toilet seats.
To avoid picking up germs, regularly disinfect your phone using a screen wipe and dry it off with a soft lint-free cloth. You can buy special wipes that will help to keep your phone germ-free without damaging it.
10. Reduce your stress
If you feel stressed or run-down then this can actually pave the way for a cold. That’s because stress causes your body to pump out excess cortisol, a hormone that can weaken your immune system’s ability to fight infection.
Relaxing and winding down can help you. Consider going for a daily walk, practising mindfulness, taking up yoga, or simply making some time for your family in the evening. If you can manage your stress, you can actually boost your immunity against coughs and colds.
Get in touch
While we can’t help you to fight off an infection, or deal with a runny nose or tickly cough, we can help you to ensure that you and your family are protected if you’re diagnosed with a serious health condition.
Critical Illness cover is designed to provide you with a tax-free lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a serious condition such as cancer or multiple sclerosis, or if you have a serious heart attack or stroke.
It can provide much needed financial assistance at what is likely to be an emotional time. Find out more about Critical Illness protection and get an online Critical Illness quote today.
Additionally, we can help you to sleep at night by giving you the peace of mind that your loved ones are protected should the very worst happen. We work with dozens of the UK’s leading insurers to find the right life insurance at the right price – so get in touch with one of our experts for help.
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