Catharina Robbertze has some tips on staying healthy this winter
Winter is the season of colds and sniffles and, while you cannot control the health of your colleagues or your children’s school friends, there are a few things you can do to improve your own and your family’s immune system and health this winter. Here are 10 things that can help you and your family get through the chilly season in one piece.
1. Eat healthy
It’s simple, really. Food fuels you and quality fuel will help you fight viruses and infection much more efficiently than if you’re living on hot dogs and coffee.
Get enough healthy vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B12 and C. Opt for fresh nutrient-rich foods such as sweet potato, carrots, sweet peppers, broccoli, dark leafy vegetables, lemons, guavas, kiwi fruit and apricots to get vitamins A and C. Vitamin B12 occurs in animal products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and eggs; and meat products such as shellfish, liver, and a range of fish (mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna and sardines, among others). If you do not eat animal products, fortified soy products or natural foods such as almonds also provide B12.
Garlic, ginger and mushrooms – particularly shiitake mushrooms – also hold great health benefits and are extremely easy to add to your diet.
2. Soak up the sun
A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggested that people with an increased concentration of vitamin D were less likely to suffer from upper respiratory tract infections. This should be ample motivation to head outside and soak up the winter sun most of South Africa enjoys.
3. Stay hydrated
Don’t wait until you’re sick before drinking more water to help your body recover. Water helps flush germs and other toxins from your body, and staying hydrated will help your body maintain a healthy environment, improving your digestion, immunity and more.
4. Cut down on alcohol
Besides drinking more water to stay hydrated, cutting down on alcohol will definitely improve your chances of staying healthy this winter. Alcohol has been proven to lower the effectiveness of your immune system, so try to steer clear of overindulgence.
Regular, moderate activity will go a long way in keeping you healthy. It is important to find a type of exercise that you enjoy, otherwise you’re more likely to lose motivation, so find something you love doing, whether it’s running, yoga, dancing or swimming.
6. Wash your hands
The cold virus spreads via contact with contaminated surfaces such as telephones, remote controls, and utensils. Wash your hands regularly to keep things hygienic and avoid picking up the virus.
Stress can have a negative influence on your health. Chronic stress can weaken your immune system, making you more prone to colds and flu and even lead to more serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or depression. Find a way to relax and address the problem if you’re chronically stressed.
8. Rinse your nose
Some say it’s an old wives’ tale, but others swear by it. Rinsing your nose once a day with diluted saline is a simple, cost-effective way to alleviate congestion and avoid cold symptoms.
9. Sleep more
The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated. Sleep is when your body replenishes its energy, giving it strength to fight off viruses and other germs that are around during the winter months. Get to bed early and don’t use electronic devices at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep to make sure you get quality Zs.
10. Extra help
There are many high-quality vitamins and supplements on the market. If you’re concerned that you’re not getting all the nutrients you need, do some research to find the best one that works for you.
Flu or cold?
It’s easy to confuse a cold with the flu, but the two are entirely different illnesses. Cold symptoms usually last for about a week, while flu symptoms are usually more severe and come on quickly.
Both illnesses start with a sore throat and cause nasal congestion, a cough and general discomfort, but flu is usually accompanied by a fever, body aches and exhaustion. If after a week you are not feeling any better, you should seek medical consultation.
Come down with a cold? Try this…
There is no cure for the common cold, but you can treat the symptoms. Gargling with a mixture of honey and apple cider vinegar will bring temporary relief for a sore throat, while drinking hot liquids such as tea and soup will relieve nasal congestion and prevent dehydration. A steamy hot shower will also work wonders for your nasal passages and relax you. However, the most important thing to do when you have a cold is to get enough rest. Don’t go to work (you’ll only get your colleagues sick too), stay in bed and rest.