Colds and flu

Updated 09 October 2017

Flu: get fighting fit

With winter here, you are bound to be surrounded by coughers and sneezers wherever you go, greatly increasing your flu risk. Start an anti-flu action plan today. Here's how.

With winter here, you’re bound to be surrounded by coughers and sneezers wherever you go, greatly increasing your flu risk.

Running like crazy from anyone who’s ill is the first step to avoid succumbing yourself, as is doing a Lady Macbeth and continually washing your hands. That’s because the flu virus is not only transmitted via droplets when someone coughs or sneezes, but also manages to survive on surfaces – door handles, escalators, desks, even bathroom towels – for up to 48 hours. So just one touch followed by a quick rub of eyes, nose or mouth and you’re a goner – that’s how contagious it is! Best advice? Arm yourself with bottles of waterless soap and use compulsively throughout the flu season.

There are also many other ways to get yourself flu-fighting fit, and since taking responsibility for your health and your body is the medical fraternity’s primary message these days, now’s the time to work on an anti-flu action plan. First up is strengthening your immune system – your body’s natural defense against viruses - as studies have shown that maintaining a healthy immune system will help you fight off infections such as colds and flu. Here’s how:

  • Get a good night’s sleep as fatigue lowers your resistance- 7-8 hours for adults; about 9 hours for teenagers.
  • Reduce your stress levels and learn how torelax as too much stress impairs your immune system.
  • Stop smoking. It’s a huge risk factor for both viral and bacterial disease.
  • Keep on moving even during the cold winter months as research has discovered a link between moderate, regular exercise (aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week) and a strong immune system.
  •  Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates (white bread, biscuits), the so-called ‘bad’ fats (trans and saturated fats) and sugar which can lower your resistance and increase your risk for infection.
  • Supplement with Vitamin C (1000mg daily), Zinc (9-14gm daily), Echinacea and Ginseng to improve general immunity.
  • Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water (add fresh mint, lemon or ginger to hot water during winter) and herbal teas.
  • Have the flu vaccine every year especially if you’re at high risk, and follow in the footsteps of millions of Americans and Europeans by stocking up on a homeopathic medicine that can assist your body to flight flu symptoms (body aches, pains, chills and fever) right from the start. Chat to your local pharmacist for more information.

Remember to consult your health practitioner if your symptoms persist for longer than 3 days/ worsen, or if you have a high fever. 

(Press release from LeBron Pharmaceuticals for Boiron Laboratories)

- (Health24, May 2012)

(Photo of boxing woman from Shutterstock)

Read more:

10 immune system boosters
Handwashing vs. expensive flu meds
Your cold-fighting grocery list
Don't hesitate. Vaccinate!
Slideshow: top 10 foods with Vitamin C


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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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