Colds and flu

20 October 2017

5 ways to boost your immune system in summer

Flu season might be over, but the change in weather can still wreak havoc with your immunity. Follow our tips to avoid a pesky summer cold or flu.

The weather might be warmer and the days longer, but just because flu season is over doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods.

A change in weather can lead to a weakened resistance to germs. While the rhinovirus – the main cause of the common cold in winter – may no longer be a problem, there are still enough viruses around in summer to make you sick. And who wants to be battling cold and flu symptoms when you could be partying outside?

Here are some ways you can protect your immune system during the warmer months.

1.    Indulge in summer fruits and salads

Now is the perfect opportunity to reap the benefit of vitamins. Not only are we more inclined to enjoy fruit smoothies or fresh salads in warmer weather, but fruits and veggies can offer the protection our bodies need during the change of season. Keep your smoothies healthy by adding more berries and spinach for extra antioxidants, and include fresh salads at lunch and dinner.

blueberry smoothie on wooden background

2.    Wash your hands

Just because your colleagues aren’t sniffing and coughing anymore, doesn’t mean your environment is entirely germ-free. Airborne viruses are still around, even though no one is showing symptoms. And if you live in the Western Cape with its current water shortage, keep a waterless hand sanitiser on your desk.

woman washing hands

3.  Start taking a probiotic

While probiotics aren’t formally recommended, these “good bacteria” can maintain your digestive health and boost the immune system, according to Dr Patricia Hibberd from Harvard Medical School. When your gut flora becomes imbalanced because of unhealthy levels of certain bacteria, it can affect your immune system. A probiotic can restore that balance.


4.  Get enough vitamin D

Because we have so much sunshine in South Africa, we tend to slap on the SPF50 to protect ourselves against harmful UV-rays. Although sun protection is crucial, it can also mean that we get less vitamin D than we need. Vitamin D is important for the body to ward off illness.

Adults need a recommended dose of 5 micrograms per day. It is advised that you spend 10 to 15 minutes per day in the sun, but if this isn't an option, you can obtain vitamin D through a supplement, or from fatty fish such as tuna or mackerel, or eggs and dairy products.

yellow gel capsules and bottle

5.  Don’t skimp on sleep

Longer days mean longer nights, and the end of the year usually involves more year-end functions and social events. Hot weather can also make sleeping uncomfortable. But don’t neglect your shuteye – sufficient sleep is important for the immune system to function optionally. If you struggle to get proper rest, talk to your doctor about possible treatments for insomnia. Also make sure your room is properly ventilated and at the right temperature for restful sleep. 

woman sleeping

Image credits: iStock 


Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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