It’s that time of year again, when the risks are high of being laid low with a cold or the flu. Viruses are easy to catch, but you can take action to minimise your chances of getting sick.

Paying attention to what you eat, drink and do during winter will help prevent infection and boost your energy levels, as the annual winter bugs test your immunity.


1. Wash your hands… regularly

Cold and flu germs can linger for hours on the many surfaces you’re likely to touch during a typical day. Bugs can be passed around via elevator buttons, kitchen appliances, handrails, door knobs, screens, and any object in contact with multiple people.

As your awareness of flu season increases, so should your hand-washing frequency. In preventing illness, it’s not just how often you wash your hands that matters, but technique counts, too.

For an effective session at the sink, spend at least 20 seconds washing vigorously with warm water and frothy soap.

Germs travel well on wet surfaces, so be sure to dry your hands properly before moving on. Hand-washing is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to protect against winter lurgies, so do it several times a day, including after using shared equipment or appliances in your workplace.

2. Don’t share drinks or food

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not winter’s cooler weather that causes colds and flu. Rather, it’s the fact that more people spend their time confined indoors, where germs can be passed around more easily.

If you can’t avoid being near a flu sufferer, take extra care while they are contagious.

Don’t share objects with them like bedding, clothing or towels. Most importantly, keep your drinks, food and utensils separate until after the risk has passed. Be aware of surfaces where germs may be lying in wait and wipe them over frequently.

3. Eat your way to boosted immunity  

The better your nutritional health during cold and flu season, the lower your risk of becoming ill.

Put the best of winter’s seasonal fresh food to work. Add the fruit and vegetables with the best immunity boosting properties, such as natural Vitamin C to your daily servings. Foods for gut health and those containing zinc are also important in keeping your defences up against infection.

In winter, be aware of consuming empty calories in junk food and fatty takeaways. They can drain your energy reserves when you need them most. Instead, put these natural goodies on your shopping list:

  • Citrus fruits, berries, kiwifruit, tomatoes, broccoli, sprouts, capsicum, spinach – for Vitamin C
  • Greek yoghurt – for the natural probiotics that boost gut health and protect your immunity
  • Salmon, red meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs and wholegrains – for zinc
  • Dark chocolate – a sweet source of antioxidants that help fight infection.

4. Switch your winter beverages

Winter’s chill makes it easy to reach for comforting hot and sweet drinks. However, cold and flu season is a good time to rethink your caffeine intake. Too much coffee and black tea can dehydrate you, right when your system needs fluids to help ward off infection.

Keep drinking water and consider replacing some daily caffeinated drinks with warming alternatives that have immunity benefits, such as ginseng, ginger and lemon, chamomile, or decaffeinated green teas.

Fresh juice counts as a serve of fruit or vegetables, so blend tasty combinations rich in Vitamin C. Try replacing your regular morning or afternoon tea beverage with juice – you can add a dash of fresh ginger which is a warming spice.

5. Herbs to help winter health

Some herbs have natural properties that fight colds and flu, whether fresh or in supplement form.

These will help with cold and flu immunity:

  • Ginger is said to have anti-viral properties and can be added to cooking or made into tea
  • Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant ‘superfood’ which can be added to cooking in powder form
  • Liquorice root works on the adrenal system alleviating stress and susceptibility to infection
  • Oregano contains immunity benefits as well as an oil extract that helps fight viruses

6. Stress less and sleep more

While stress doesn’t cause colds or flu, research into its link to winter illnesses found that people with ongoing stress can suffer from reduced immunity and become more susceptible to getting sick than others.

Regular exercise is a proven way to manage unavoidable stress. Winter weather and its shorter days can deplete your motivation for working out, but even gentle exercise can reduce stress. So, maintain as much physical activity as you can during flu season, as an added defence against infection.

Being well-rested is essential for reducing stress and maintaining good immunity. During sleep, essential proteins are released by your immune system that keep you healthy. During the chilly months, make it a priority to get enough sleep to recharge yourself, for a fighting chance to avoid any cold and flu viruses that come your way.

Source: CUA