Preparing yourself for flu season: prevention & treatment

Are you ready for flu season?

Immunity

asktheexpert
Sonia Williams


15 June 2021

1. Personal hygiene

One of the easiest ways to prevent contracting the flu is to be vigilant with washing your hands. This is especially important after going to the bathroom, touching public doors and rails, shaking hands, blowing your nose or wiping your face. Not only will this reduce your chances of catching a virus, but it will also help to prevent the spread of other unwanted germs. To ensure you kill all germs when washing your hands, make sure to wash for at least 30 seconds using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand wash with antibacterial properties.

2. Fresh fruit and vegies

While it may only play one part in building your immune system, eating a balanced diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables can help to fight off flu viruses. To help keep your immunity at its peak during flu season, aim to consume foods that contain antioxidants, selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamins C, D and E. This should include a good mix of the following foods:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Capsicums
  • Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Ginger
  • Spinach
  • Yoghurt
  • Almonds
  • Chicken
  • Turmeric
  • Green tea

That being said, food alone cannot completely protect you from getting sick, but it does help to give your body the best possible chance of defending itself.

3. Sleep

Sleep is another really important tool for preparing your body to fight off colds and flu. When we sleep, our bodies produce and release cytokines – a protein that attacks inflammation and infection. This means that, if we're not getting a decent amount of rest, our body's ability to protect itself will be significantly diminished. For those experience chronic sleep deprivation, the lack of cytokines can even reduce the effectiveness of the flu vaccine.

During flu season, it's recommended that we aim to get around 8 hours of sleep per night where possible. If work or other lifestyle factors inhibit your ability to sleep, try napping twice a day for no longer than half an hour to help reduce the impact of sleep deprivation on your immune system.

4. Stay hydrated

Did you know that dehydration can increase your risk of getting sick? The human body needs water to function optimally, and when this is reduced, it changes how your body operates. It also prolongs illness once we have fallen sick. This is because the proteins that fight sickness are transported around the body through our fluids, and lack of such fluids makes it more difficult for them to effectively fight off bugs.

Being adequately hydrated also increases oxygen flow around your body which helps to flush out toxins and germs.

On average, we need around 2L of water per day to maintain optimal hydration. For some, 2L might seem quite difficult to achieve however it's something can be built up over time.

5. Boost your immunity

Every year, we get told the same thing: get your flu shot. With more cases of influenza being diagnosed already this year than last, health professionals are urging more people to get vaccinated. This is especially true for young children, pregnant women, elderly people and those with a pre-existing medical condition, who are at a higher risk.

Depending on your age and other factors, you may be eligible to receive a free flu shot under the National Immunisation Program (NIP). Check your eligibility here.

Influenza vaccinations are recommended to be taken around mid-April. This is because it can take 2-3 weeks to develop immunity, providing the best protection for the following 3-4 months.

6. Listen to your body

You are the best person to advise on your health. If you feel a little run down or notice signs of the flu, it's best to take immediate action to avoid worsening symptoms. Even when you're already ill, following the above tips can help you to recover more quickly.

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