What is flu?
Flu is the common name for Influenza, the virus that attacks your body during the winter season.
When the virus penetrates your cells, your immune system reacts by producing white blood cells to fight it.
This causes common flu symptoms such as high temperature, feeling tired or exhausted, runny or blocked nose, sore throat and cough, which help to make the environment “hostile” for the virus.
Flu is different from a cold
Flu viruses are different from cold viruses. Cold viruses are not as strong as Influenza, but they can cause similar symptoms.
Flu symptoms are usually stronger and last for about a week to ten days, whereas colds last two or three days.
It is important to recognise the difference to treat your condition appropriately.
5 tips to boost your immune system before flu strikes
Before flu strikes this winter, you can prepare your body to react promptly and possibly avoid catching a cold or the flu or at least reduce the symptoms.
- Flu jab
A flu vaccine is an immediate protection against the Influenza virus. It helps to prevent flu or reduce the symptoms. The flu jab helps you to cope with the infection better and get over it more quickly.
People over 65, pregnant women, people with chronic respiratory illnesses or people with a weak immune system should have the flu jab every year.
Vitamins and minerals are crucial to develop a robust immune system. If you have a balanced diet, supplements won’t help to improve your immune system function.
Avoid processed foods and sugars because they can suppress your immune system. Remember that most immune cells lie in your gut and food really is medicine. A healthy gut is key to a well-functioning immune system.
Sleep has a positive effect on your immune system. According to a recent study, sleep enhances the antibodies (T cells) ability to attach to infected cells and fight pathogens.
Sleep seems to regulate the activation of integrins, the proteins that facilitate T cells bonds to the infected cells. This process is crucial for a successful immune response.
- Physical activity
Physical activity at moderate level can stimulate the flow of white blood cells into the tissues, and it is positively associated with a better immunosurveillance, which is the ability of the body to detect viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.
However, heavy excising is inversely related to immune response and often linked to inflammation, muscle damage and oxidative stress. Don’t over-exercise and plan rest in between workouts.
Cortisol is the hormone that your body produces to respond to stress.
Good levels of cortisol trigger your immune function; however, when stress becomes the norm, the body adapts to having high stress hormone levels.
This can prompt an opposite reaction. Lymphocytes, white blood cells, start to decrease in number, and this exposes you to a higher risk of being attacked by viruses and infections.
Learning cope mechanisms to handle stress will benefit your immune function as well. Try yoga or meditation. Sometimes even going for a walk helps.
Hygiene doesn’t boost your immune system; however, it is fundamental to keep pathogens at bay.
Wash your hands with care using hot water and soap, use sanitisers when you are out and about and disinfect your everyday environment.
Clean your work desk, especially your mouse, keyboard and phones. Studies have found many more viruses and bacteria on mobile phones than kitchen counters and toilet seats!
What to do if the flu does strike
If you do catch a cold or flu, there are still things you can do to recover quicker.
Ibuprofen and paracetamol are the most common medications to help relieve the symptoms of flu, but you should use them only when necessary. Flu symptoms are your immune system response to the virus, and you shouldn’t try to suppress them unless you’re in pain or have a very high temperature.
Common colds and flu must never be treated with antibiotics because they are not caused by bacteria, and antibiotics won’t help to destroy viruses.
Useful things to do if you have the flu and which are very straightforward include:
- Eat healthy and avoid sugar and alcohol
- Drink lots of water
- Stay at home to avoid your condition worsening
- Seek medical advice from your GP if symptoms are persistent
Flu is a serious condition, and you should never underestimate the consequences of not treating it adequately.
However, prevention is as important as treatment.
Your immune system, unless you already have a condition that affects it, can work perfectly. Following these 6 tips on how to boost it will hopefully help you not to get sick.
If you would like to make an appointment at our Flu Vaccine Clinic call 020 8949 9076.