Family

How to beat flu symptoms this winter



Things you can do to help beat flu symptoms

1. Get vaccinated… 

The most effective thing you can do is to get yourself a jab, says Eccles. The good news is that it’s easier than ever before, with the NHS is giving away free vaccines to a wider group of people. In England, you are eligible if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Older than 50, or will be by March 31, 2022
  • Aged two or three
  • In primary or secondary school, up to Year 11
  • Live in a long-term residential care facility
  • Care for a vulnerable person who could be at risk if you got flu
  • Live with someone with a compromised immune system
  • A frontline health worker
  • A frontline social worker
  • Have a health condition that makes you vulnerable

If you are not on this list, Eccles recommends thinking about getting a flu jab done privately, which could cost around £15 at your local pharmacy. “It’s well worth paying for a vaccination even if you’re not in a group not getting the free one”, says Eccles. He says the cost will likely make sense especially if your salary suffers when you’re ill, like if you’re self-employed. “The amount you’re paying for the jab could be insignificant compared to days off work.”

2. …At the right time of day

Getting your flu jab in the morning will increase its efficacy, says Professor Janet Lord, professor of cell biology at the University of Birmingham. “Your immune system is very [influenced by your] circadian rhythm”, she says. She led a 2016 study that found that people whose appointments were between 9am and 11am produced more antibodies than those who were jabbed between 3pm and 5pm. “They work in the afternoon as well, but they just work better in the morning”, she says. “We still don’t fully understand why, but it does.”

3. Take your vitamins

A 2017 meta-analysis led by Queen Mary researchers found that vitamin D supplements helped to cut the risk of colds and flu by half. It was especially helpful for those who had a pre-existing deficiency of the vitamin, but everyone experienced some benefit. Taking regular doses was best, instead of occasional high doses. 

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet should be enough to get the rest of the vitamins your immune system needs, but if not then it might be worth further supplementation, says Eccles. “Maybe even take Vitamin C if you’re not eating much fruit and vegetables”, he says. 

According to Dr Bella Smith, founder of the Digital GP, “Vitamin D is what most of us lack when it comes to winter, so it’s worth topping up on that if you can. Vitamin C is important for immunity too; if you have a good diet that’s full of nutrients, fruit and vegetables, then you probably won’t need supplements.” She adds that if your diet is lacking in nutrients, it can be a good idea to look at increasing your vitamin C intake through a daily supplement.

A 2017 study shows that taking vitamin D supplements reduces the risk of experiencing at least one respiratory infection, including flu and pneumonia, by a third, with positive benefits seen within three weeks.

4. Stand up 

Sitting down for too long will not help your immunity, says Lord. The reason is because many of your immune cells are transported around your body not in your blood, but in your lymph: a clear fluid that is pushed around your body by the movement of your muscles. “Any type of exercise will move the lymph around the body”, she says. “So don’t watch daytime TV for hours on end, keep that lymph moving around. The cells have to be cruising around the body looking for infection.”

Even just tiny bursts of activity can help your immunity. An Australian study from 2007 found that exercising your arms just once in the hours before you get jabbed can boost your immune response. Study subjects who worked their biceps and shoulders, the muscles near where they got the vaccine, on the day of their jab produced more immune cells in the weeks afterwards. 

Yet Smith advises that it’s important that we aren’t exercising too much, as this can actually lower people’s immunity by triggering stress chemicals, like cortisol. After a marathon, for example, a 1990 study showed 13 per cent of finishers developed an upper respiratory infection, compared with only 2 per cent of runners who trained for the marathon but didn’t run it.

5. Get enough sleep 

Sleep is an important process for your immune system. During this period of rest, your body’s ability to fight infection is reset and replenished, says Eccles. “We know that if you’re not getting enough sleep your immune system doesn’t work as well and you’re prone to infections”, she says. 

Even tiny losses of sleep can have an effect. An American study from 2009 backs this up: people who slept less than seven hours a night were almost three times as likely to get a cold than those who slept for eight or more hours. 

6. Avoid catching it

Eccles says that continuing some Covid-era precautions would be a helpful way to avoid catching flu in the first place. Unlike Covid-19, which was largely airborne and spread through being in close contact with others, the flu can also be spread via surfaces. Eccles says that he makes sure to wash his hands after being in crowded places, and still wears a mask if he is going somewhere very busy.

What happens if you catch the flu this winter?

Flu is a serious condition, even when caught by itself. It kills around 11,000 people in England each year and hospitalises many more. Although it’s early days, there are some documented cases of people catching flu and coronavirus at the same time. 

Despite their similar symptoms, coronavirus and flu pathogens use different receptors on cells to gain access to our bodies. Essentially, this means that Sars-CoV-2 could enter one way, while a flu virus slips in another.

A study from April 2020, of about 1,200 patients, conducted in California, found that one in five people who were diagnosed with Covid-19 were co-infected with another respiratory virus.

If you suspect you have the flu, it’s vital to stay at home from work longer than you normally would to reduce it spreading to others. Most people usually find that they recover within a week. “Under normal circumstances, people might power through a bout of the flu, but hopefully this time employers will be a bit more understanding if you need to take time off,” says Smith. “If you’ve got symptoms, stay home. It’s just as much about protecting other people as it is you.”

If you are unfortunate enough to get a bout of flu this winter, it might make you more vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus – and vice versa. Any infection weakens your immune system slightly, leaving you more vulnerable to infections later down the line.

What are the main symptoms of the flu?

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhoea, though this is more common in children than adults

This article is kept updated with the latest information to retain its long-term value to our readers and subscribers.


What are your tips for beating flu? Let us know in the comments section below



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *