Doctor Joe Kosterich discusses ways to avoid catching the flu, including taking the flu vaccine and helping the immune system.
I want to talk a little bit about the things you can do to avoid getting flu or reduce your chances of getting it. Now, there is the obvious one – which is of course your flu vaccination – and that’s recommended for people over the age of 65. It’s also recommended for people who have chronic illnesses (perhaps things like asthma or kidney disease) and some other groups as well, so it’s best to chat to your doctor about that.
The other main form of defense against the flu is our immune systems. As humans, we are very fortunate to have immune systems that keep viruses, bacteria and other illnesses at bay. Every day we come into contact with bacteria and viruses that could cause infections, but not everybody gets sick every day – and the reason for that is our immune system.
So what kind of things can you do to help support and look after your immune system? It’s a lot of the basic and obvious stuff. Making sure that you are drinking a good eight glasses of water every day. Making sure that you get enough rest is very important. Most people will need eight hours of sleep per night, and that’s part of the time when the body recharges itself, including your immune system. Making sure that you’re eating plenty of fruit and vegetables to make sure that you get some vitamins and minerals that are also important for your immune system. Getting some regular exercise also can be quite important in the support of your immune system.
There are people who like to take vitamin C. It does remain controversial, but there are some people who like to do that, and it may be worth having a chat with your healthcare provider about that. Some people like zinc, and that also has its supporters and detractors. Some of these complementary therapies are used by people; some people do swear by them, but it’s worth having a chat with your doctor about it.
The other really important thing that has been shown in clinical studies is actually keeping a positive attitude. There have been studies in universities in Europe showing that people who have a positive outlook on life are less likely to get sick than those who don’t.
None of these things are a forcefield guaranteeing that you can’t get sick for any reason. However, all of these things taken together are likely to reduce the likelihood of you getting sick, and also, if you do come down with something, you’ll probably get better a little more quickly.
For more information on the common cold and influenza, types of influenza and treatments and tips for preventing influenza, see Cold and Flu.