4 tips that could help you cut down on sick days.

Image: 30 Rock.

The idea of having a day off work to stay in bed might be enticing, but we can all agree being sick is nobody’s idea of fun.

At this time of year, catching a cold seems inevitable. There are more than 200 viruses associated with the common cold, so when you’re jammed into a bus with 40 snotty strangers or cooped up in an office all day, there’s a very good chance you’ll come into contact with one of them.

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“You can only channel your energies into things you can change … you can’t avoid a cold or flu, people sit next to you and sneeze on you all day,” says Stephen Eddey, Principal of Health Schools Australia.

“When you are exposed to a virus, your body will go, ‘Argh, I’m onto that’ and it will kill it … Some people recover quicker from a cold. It’s not luck, it’s how much immunity you’ve got to kill these things.”

1. Maintain good hygiene

The first step is is a relatively straightforward one: keep on top of your general hygiene, particularly when it comes to your hands. “It’s the stuff you roll your eyes about — washing your hands with warm soapy water and making sure your house is aired out,” Eddey explains. (Post continues after gallery.)

Hand-washing has been described as a “do it yourself vaccine”, and can effectively prevent the spread of respiratory, food-bourne and diarrhoeal illnesses, which are often picked up through physical contact with other people and surfaces. Here’s a guide to doing it properly.

2. Try not to stress

This is less straightforward than Point 1, but equally important. Keeping your stress levels under control, to the best of your ability, can prevent you from becoming “run down” and help your body better fight off illness.

“When you’re stressed out, a hormone in your body called cortisol increases, and cortisol suppresses the immune system… this is why people get viral attacks like herpes and cold sores when they’re stressed,” Eddey explains.

This is nobody's idea of fun.

Initially, Eddey says, this physiological response evolved to allow humans to survive; for instance, if a person was under attack from an animal, they wouldn't need their immune system in that moment.

However, these days we tend to be stressed about a lot of different things all the time — jobs, relationships, mortgages, finances, the list goes on — and it's affecting our physical health. Plus, falling sick when you're already stressed is only going to stress you out more.


RELATED: 16 people on the techniques they use to manage their stress.,

"Chronic stress is a problem so we've got to avoid that," Eddey says.

3. Support your immune function

Fresh veggies are your friend. Stock up.

Your immune system is like your own personal superhero, so it's on you to be a good sidekick by helping it stay in fighting form.

Eddey says diet plays a major role in this; providing your immune system with the nutrients it needs is key. Eating lots of whole foods, fresh fruit and veggies and avoiding too many refined foods is a great start. Eddey says he also uses nutritional supplements, both prior to and during a cold — particularly olive leaf extract, which he describes as "a powerful antiviral agent and an anti-microbial agent".

RELATED: This app can tell you if you're in danger of catching a cold.

Also, don't forget to stay hydrated and keep that water intake up.

Getting enough sleep is also really important for your health, as sleep deprivation can impair your immune system's ability to fight infection. (Post continues after gallery.)

4. Keep active

Yes, you know this one was coming. In the ongoing war on cold viruses, exercise is a major ally — though you have to be wary to not overdo it. "It's a double-edged sword. If you over-exercise day after day, which most Australians do not do although they think they do, the immune system becomes depressed," Eddey says.

"But typically speaking, short-term acute exercise, things like hitting the gym, is going to boost the immune system. It boosts up all the cytokines and immune cells and makes them more active. That's one of the keys to good health generally but it's also very good for your immune system."

RELATED: Don't want to gain weight over winter? There's an easy trick to preventing it.

Yes, we know it's cold outside, but that's not really a good enough excuse to side-step fitness. "Don't ever let a temperature gauge tell you you can't exercise. That's giving your health up to an external force, and your health is too important to give up. You've got to take control of it," Eddey says.

Have you had a cold this year?

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