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Boost your immune system this cold and flu season

Cold and flu season is fast approaching. Stay off the bench with immune-boosting strategies.

31 March 2023 | By Glynis Horning

Things we love about winter: jerseys, soup and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. The downside of winter: it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to get sick, right? Wrong. Read on for how to boost your immune system and keep colds and flu at bay.

Colds and flu: what’s the difference again?

Colds and flu are both caused by viruses, which is why it’s important to keep your immune system strong to fight against them. Flu is caused by influenza viruses and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are four main types that cause seasonal flu. The common cold is caused by the rhinovirus and, according to the British Medical Journal, there are more than 200 sub-types. 

Symptom-wise, the two are actually quite different. According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu symptoms usually include fever, chills, body aches, headaches and chest discomfort, like coughing, all of which are rare with a cold. However, cold symptoms typically feature sneezing, a stuffy nose and a sore throat, which are less common with flu. What’s more, flu comes on suddenly, while a cold develops more gradually. 

Get your flu shot

The most effective way to guard against flu is by vaccination, according to the WHO. Vaccination primes your immune system so that when it encounters the flu virus, it’s ready to fight it, either preventing you from becoming ill at all or reducing the severity of your illness. Because there are different variants of the virus that circulate, they recommend you get vaccinated annually so you’re getting a vaccine that’s most closely matched to the current circulating variants and therefore more effective. Annual flu shots are available at Clicks Clinics

Other ways to stay healthy

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the importance of regular handwashing and this practice holds true for preventing colds and flu as well. Viruses are spread through infected droplets that can linger on a person’s hands or a surface they’ve touched. The WHO also stresses that it’s important to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, use tissues and dispose of them properly, avoid contact with sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and to self-isolate if you feel like you’re coming down with something – especially from anyone who has a compromised immune system, like elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions. 

Boost your immune system

While vaccines help build immunity against specific diseases, having a generally stronger immune system is also important to guard against colds and flu. The CDC recommends eating well, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption and, if you’re a smoker – it’s time to quit. Eating well means getting all the nutrients your body needs. For a stronger immune system, Cleveland Clinic specifically recommends vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, zinc and selenium. 

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