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Singapore’s peak flu seasons are between December and February and again between May and July, so now’s the time to be taking precautions. Symptoms are fairly easy to spot and include coughing, sneezing, sore throat, fever, headaches, muscle pain and fatigue.
As the virus is spread through droplets in the air and on shared objects, isolation is the best way to avoid it.. But of course, that’s not really possible. The next-best thing is to take these tried and true preventative measures, that can reduce the likelihood of you catching the flu.
Eating a healthy diet keeps your immune system strong, so by eating lots of green, leafy vegetables, you can help to ward off the virus. Getting enough Vitamin D is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system, and good sources include eggs, mushrooms, cheese, salmon and canned tuna.
Avoiding sugar in all its forms is also a good preventative measure. Like alcohol, sugar inhibits your white blood cells from functioning at their best, reducing their effectiveness in fighting off bacteria. Stay away from fizzy drinks and candy bars during flu season, and your immune system will have a much better chance of protecting you.
Doorknobs, the handrail on the MRT you held on your commute home from work or the ATM keypad — these are just some of the surfaces that could have been touched by someone with the flu. This is why it is so important to wash your hands thoroughly during flu season. Use hygiene-wipe dispensers when they are available in public areas, and carry a bottle of hand sanitiser in your bag for when they are not.
As well as your hands, keep shared surfaces clean both at home and at work by wiping down telephone receivers, keyboards, light switches and door handles to prevent the spread of germs on these frequently-touched surfaces.
Recent research has confirmed that staying hydrated is also important for warding off viruses such as the flu. A study conducted by Dr David Lewis for water-filter manufacturer Brita found that those who drank less than eight glasses of water a day were at much higher risk of catching the flu.
This is because hydration is required to moisten the lining of the nose, which contains a mucous membrane that traps bacteria as it is breathed in, preventing it from travelling to the lungs. The study found that those drinking two-and-a-half glasses of water or less were almost four times more likely to catch the flu.
Approximately 70% of our immune system is believed to be located in our intestine, so maintaining good gastro-intestinal health is another important way to guard against catching influenza. And probiotics play an important role in this.
Different strains work in different ways and one of the most-researched probiotics for immunity is Lactobacillus paracasei CASEI 431®. This has been shown to reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms by up to three days and is contained in probiotics such as OptiBac Probiotics ‘For Daily Immunity’ supplement.
Moderate exercise can also help to boost your immune system. According to astudy published in the journal Neurologic Clinicians, regular exercise keeps inflammation and chronic disease at bay, reduces stress and accelerates the circulation of white blood cells, which help the body fight off disease.
Adopting a regular exercise routine such as walking for at least half an hour on most days of the week will make you fitter and healthier, but will also help to release stress and boost your immune system.
Getting enough sleep every night can also help to boost your immune system. According toresearch published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, participants in a study who slept for at least eight hours each night showed greater resistance to the flu, while those who slept seven hours or less were more likely to develop the flu after exposure.
While the amount of sleep we require varies according to the individual, seven to nine hours of sleep a night is generally recommended for adults, and at least 10 hours a night for children and 12 hours for toddlers.
One of the most effective ways to avoid getting the flu is to get vaccinated before the flu season arrives. You should schedule a flu shot for the whole family at least two weeks before the season begins, and have a fresh vaccination every year, as flu viruses are constantly evolving. You should also get a flu shot before you or your family travel to a new place, to ensure you are protected against the strain of flu virus prevalent in that particular region.