Last year’s flu season was a shocker – Australia had the highest-recorded number of flu infections since 2009. So now, with summer over and winter on the horizon, there’s one question on everyone’s mind: What can I do to reduce my chances of getting sick this year?
We asked Dr Dasha Fielder of Sapphire Family Medical Practice for her top tips for the things you can do now for your immune system to improve your health later.
1. Get the flu vaccine.
“I think to be honest the best way to prevent flu is to get the vaccine as early as you possibly can,” says Dr Fielder.
It seems obvious, but that’s because it really does make a difference. The most vulnerable people are children, the elderly and pregnant women, but as we saw in 2017, anyone can get the flu.
“As soon as they are available, vaccinate all members of the family including children from six months. Get the vaccine which has the most strains covered,” Dr Fielder adds.
You can get the flu shot at the doctor or at some pharmacies. Although the latter can only administer vaccines to those over the age of 18 (16 in South Australia), the appointments are quick and convenient.
It's important to note that the flu vaccine does not protect you from the common cold.
"Flu is completely different. It's a severe illness that wipes you out for a week to 10 days. You're much sicker," she says. "And even if we don't get the strain right every year, if you get an annual influenza vaccination, you'll be much more protected."
2. Fuel your immune system with the right stuff.
It's no surprise that general healthy eating will help strengthen your immune system. But there are specific things you can eat - and avoid - to reduce the chance of that nasty flu taking over.
"Eat less processed food and more green veggies and good protein sources," Dr Fielder says. "Natural sources of Vitamin C like lemon, berries and of course oranges are very good. When you have the virus, it's not going to make a difference - you need daily consumption to prevent."
While she says there's not a lot of evidence for many vitamins, she says she does recommend patients take daily vitamin C, echinacea, zinc and garlic, which has some evidence for immunity boosting.
3. If you are sick, stay at home.
"It's really important to have good policies at work for people not to be at work when they are sick," Dr Fielder explains.
"The only way it spreads is from person to person, so it continues to spread the virus and make more people sick."
4. Be hygienic.
"If you're coughing or sneezing, cover up and wash your hands regularly," she says.
"You don't need to sanitise, just washing your hands is enough. And staying away from sick people. It's common sense but important."
5. Look after yourself.
"We get sick when we are vulnerable, stressed, overworked or even from a big weekend, and then we reduce our immune system and encounter the virus," Dr Fielder says.
"Make sure you're looking after yourself, by eating well, sleeping and exercising."
So there you have it. Don't be stuck calling in sickies and spending 10 days straight with Netflix and a doona full of tissues - take care of yourself before the flu season begins.
What's your top tip for staying healthy during the sick season?
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner TerryWhite Chemmart.
Because your health is our priority, we offer a number of different health services right here in the pharmacy. Our approachable and accessible pharmacists also provide professional assistance for many different health and wellbeing issues. TerryWhite Chemmart, helping to keep you Alive & Well.