If you’d like to sail through this winter cold, allergen and flu-free, follow these simple tips to winter wellness.

Protect against flu

The flu season has come earlier this year, with diagnoses of influenza running at significantly higher levels than this time last year. Commonly known as ‘the flu’, influenza is a highly contagious virus that can be serious, debilitating and affect the whole body. Influenza is much more severe than the common cold, and can be fatal.

Vaccination is the single best strategy to prevent the virus.

The flu is spread by infected people coughing or sneezing, as well as from surfaces contaminated by respiratory secretions. So it’s easy to catch and spread, but can be hard to avoid. Watch the Influenza Specialist’s Group’s traffic light time-lapse vision to show how easily the flu virus spreads. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9lXcWcV738.

Influenza is estimated to cause between 1,500 and 3,500 deaths per annum, which is higher than the annual road toll. Influenza also causes more than 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultations across Australia, each year.

Experts suggest between 5 and 20 per cent of our Australian population may be infected with influenza each year.

The Australian Government recommends an annual flu shot for anyone aged six months or older wishing to reduce their likelihood of flu infection. Getting vaccinated against flu is important for two reasons:

  1. Regular updating of the vaccine formulation covers changes in the circulating virus strains; and
  2. The quite short-lived response to current influenza vaccines, which wanes after one season.

To reduce your risk of infection, wash your hands frequently, cover your face when coughing or sneezing and throw used tissues in the bin.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to learn more.

Other sure-fire steps to winter wellness this season

  • Keep warm

You can lose up to 30 per cent of your body heat through your head, so keep your head covered this winter.

  • Stay hydrated

Aim to drink two litres or eight glasses of water a day. Water aids kidney function and flushes toxins from the body. Water also helps to flush out an infection if you have fallen ill.

  • Follow a balanced diet

Food affects our mood and immunity.

Recent Australian Health Survey findings released by the ABS reveal Aussies prefer to eat high energy foods with low nutritional value over fruits and veggies, which can lead to an iron deficiency, triggering mood swings that can affect our mental health.

  • Take vitamins and probiotics

Taking daily vitamins and probiotics along with a heathy diet can help boost your immunity to stave off infection. In particular, keep your vitamin D levels in-check.

  • Moisturise

Your skin can take a beating during winter. Exposure to strong winds, low humidity and central heating can render your skin dry, itchy and flaky, and vulnerable to skin conditions, including eczema and dermatitis.

To prevent the skin barrier from breaking down this winter, keep your skin hydrated and moisturise, moisturise, moisturise!

  • Exercise

Grab a buddy to stay motivated during the cooler months. You can rug up and head outdoors, or drop by your local gym or indoor swimming pool for a regular work-out.

  • Sleep

Don’t forget to catch some ‘zzzz’s this winter. If you’re well rested, you’re less likely to fall ill.

  • Stop smoking

Smoking puts you at risk of developing upper respiratory infections. Whether you’re a heavy or just a social smoker, aim to quit this winter and breathe easy.

  • Attack mould

Mould thrives in damp, warm and humid environments, both indoors and outdoors. If your house is under attack from mould forming in your shower recess, on your window panes, walls or basement, be sure to kill and remove it immediately. Several products can help kill and remove mould, including bleach, borax, vinegar, detergents, ammonia or hydrogen peroxide.

Mould can cause wheezing, watery or red eyes, a runny nose, coughing, a rash and exacerbate asthma and allergic conditions. So done some gloves and get cleaning!

  • Get out and about

Mental health is critical to overall health and wellbeing. Isolating yourself indoors can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – is a mood disorder with a seasonal pattern. It is characterised by depressive symptoms, often affecting those who are otherwise mentally well. According to Beyond Blue, although the cause of the disorder is unclear, experts believe it is related to the variation in light exposure throughout different seasons. Although uncommon in Australia, SAD tends to occur during winter.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for professional advice on how to stay well this winter.