Winter is here! Our top tips to keep you fighting fit

What can you do to help boost your immunity this winter

Winter has well and truly arrived in most parts of Australia and with its arrival, so have the runny noses, sore throats, coughs and nasty bugs.  

One way of the nastiest bugs out there is Influenza (the flu). The flu is a highly contagious viral infection that can affect anyone at any time, with infections peaking during winter. While it can be a mild disease, the flu can also lead to serious illness and even death in otherwise healthy people.  

This year, we have seen a rise of flu cases early in the season. The latest figures from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) fortnightly reporting period to 30 April 2023 show that laboratory confirmed cases have almost doubled, compared to the same reporting period last year (2022).

So, how can we fight the flu this winter?

Get your flu shot

Getting the flu vaccination is your best defence against the virus and preventing serious disease. It’s important to get vaccinated every year as the flu strains are constantly changing, so the vaccine needs to adapt every year too. It is recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated against the flu.

Keep up with the good hygiene

Just like COVID-19 and the common cold, the flu virus is spread by body fluids, from person to person, when an infected person breathes, talks, coughs, or sneezes. The viruses can also be spread when someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches their mouth, eyes or nose.

So other than getting your flu shot, maintaining good hygiene practices is one of the best ways to help prevent the flu (or any other virus) from spreading. We’re all pretty well versed on the importance of good hygiene by now, and particularly now that winter is here, it’s important not to get complacent.

Don’t forget to:

  • Wash your hands properly and often
  • Keep surfaces clean
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a new tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your face, and
  • Stay home when you are sick

Boost your immune system

Your immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends your body against infection. It is essential for your survival, as without it, your body would be open to attack from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. Essentially, it keeps a record of every germ that it has ever defeated so that it can recognise and destroy it more quickly if it enters the body again.

Your immune system works hard every day to protect you from getting sick, so why not give it a helping hand with the following immune boosting tips. Although none of these  will prevent you from contracting a virus, they will help your body to fight it off quicker and reduce the severity.

5 ways to get your immune system fighting fit:

1. Get enough sleep - Getting good quality sleep is one of the best things that you can do to help strengthen your immune system. It’s where the individual war against any virus is really won.

While you sleep you get a boost in the chemicals that help regulate immunity. Once these chemicals are produced, they can then create a variety of immune defenders that are ready and waiting to attack if a virus or infection enters. This then creates a defence system that can recognise a virus better the next time it enters to respond even faster.

To keep your immune system healthy and strong you should aim to get 7-8 hours of good quality sleep of sleep every night.

2. Eat well - Amongst a host of other health and wellbeing benefits, maintaining a well-balanced nutritional diet, rich in vitamins, is essential for building and maintaining a strong immune system. Get your body functioning at its best with these tasty tips:

  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – the more colour and variety the better
  • Include lean proteins, such as lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or plant-based alternatives
  • Get into the omega 3 rich foods, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, flax or chia seed
  • Add in some good quality whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, quinoa or wholegrain pasta
  • Drink plenty of water and keep hydrated

3. Movement – just like good nutrition, getting regular exercise is a key component to good health and wellbeing, and therefore, a healthy immune system. If you are new to exercise, start off slow and gradually increase the duration and frequency, aiming for 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity per week. Brisk walking, swimming, or cycling are some good places to start. If you are already a regular exerciser, then continue as normal.

4. Drink less alcohol - When it comes to any aspect of your health and wellbeing, including your immune function, alcohol is never a good mix! When you consume high amounts of alcohol, your body is busy trying to detoxify, and is therefore unable to properly tend to its other critical functions, which includes fighting off a disease.

If you do drink, make sure you do it in moderation. Aim to limit yourself to no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

5. Get out into the sun - The vitamin D that you can get from a little bit of sun exposure each day can really help your immune function. Vitamin D deficiency has associations with autoimmune diseases and increased infection rates. Be sensible with it though, avoid spending too much time in the sun, particularly when the UV is high.

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