After what’s been a balmy Indian summer one thing’s for certain: cooler temperatures and those nasty cold and flu bugs are just round the corner.
It’s often said that prevention is better than cure, and when it comes to keeping colds and flu at bay – especially if you’re an older person and possibly more vulnerable – staying well is vital to keep the nasties away.
One of the reasons why you’re more vulnerable as an older adult is because your immune system weakens as you age. This, coupled with the fact that viruses like those of the common cold and flu are more prevalent in the Winter months, means that older people in particular need to be more mindful of their risks during this time. The effects of flu can not only be difficult in themselves to battle but they can progress into pneumonia, which can in turn also increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.
So what can you do? Our top tips should help you battle the viruses and keep them at bay:
Flu jab
Now’s the time to book in for your flu jab. There are so many good reasons for getting this done (we’ve covered them before in our blog) and getting in early is vital as it protects you for the coming Winter season. It’s completely free on the NHS for anyone over 65. Remember that flu strains change each year so think of it as a clean slate from last year and get yourself up to date with this year’s vaccination programme. It can take up to 2 weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective so early action will maximise your protection.
Jettison the germs
Germs spread easily and are contagious so be much more mindful of your cleanliness habits. Make sure you wash your hands regularly and carefully, especially if you’ve touched your mouth, eyes and nose. This is of course essential before you handle any food. Don’t forget that surfaces all around will become contaminated with germs on contact, and those germs can survive for quite some time, so clean surfaces regularly. We’re not just talking about kitchen work surfaces but also items such as door handles, remote controls, light switches and towels.
Fitness first
Staying active and keeping fit will mean you’re in a much better place to fight off anything that comes your way. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will boost your immune system and will actually help you keep illness away. Aim for the recommended regular exercise for adults. This is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week and at least 2 sessions of strengthening exercises to work the major muscle groups (these are the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). You don’t need to join a gym! A brisk walk counts and the fresh air will also do wonders for you.
You are what you eat
The benefits of eating a well balanced diet are well documented – and for good reason. Good nutrition is vital for maintaining a healthy weight and having low levels of body fat. It’s your body’s energy source, promotes better sleep and is just what you need for your wellbeing. There are also a number of foods that you can introduce into your diet that are known for their immune boosting properties. They are:
  • Citrus fruits
  • Broccoli
  • Red peppers
  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Spinach
  • Green tea
What happens if you do become ill?
Despite all your best efforts, everyone succumbs to the odd cold at some point. If you do become ill then it’s time to do the following:
  • Stop exercising – this takes energy away from your body as it’s trying to fight off the illness and heal. This is especially important if you have a temperature as your body heat can be raised to the point of exhaustion. Now is the time for rest and recuperation, so just take it easy.
  • Eat right – if you weren’t doing so before, then make sure you do now!
  • Stay away from any other vulnerable people – you could be exposing them to a virus that is potentially very dangerous to them. If you do have to see other people, be careful about coughing and sneezing near them and make sure you dispose of any tissues properly.
  • Know your symptoms – the symptoms of cold and flu have similarities but also some clear differences. With a cold, the symptoms can come on more gradually and progress from a sore throat to being congested and then develop into a cough. Flu can present with the same symptoms but will come on much more suddenly and be accompanied by fever, chills, and fatigue. Flu is also likely to last much longer, and leave you feeling totally drained.