Winter is the season of runny noses, feverish shakes and tickly coughs, and while it may be impossible to avoid every illness doing the rounds, some simple precautions and sensible self-care tips can minimise the time you spend under the duvet.
1) Washing your hands
It sounds obvious and most of us probably think we are already doing a good job of this, but hand washing is the number one way to avoid germs and viruses. Washing your hands should take at least a minute and should be done frequently throughout the day. We constantly raise our hands towards our mouth, nose or eyes and this is the easiest way to transfer a virus into our system.
Start with rinsing your hands with warm water, adding soap and then rubbing them together, paying particular attention to your nails and the skin between your fingers – you should wash past your wrists. This part of the process should take at least 20 seconds. Rinse and then dry thoroughly, preferably with a hand drier or at least clean, unused paper towels.
Your hands can pick up viruses from any surface, so while this may look a little strange, where possible push open doors with your elbow so your hands remain clean.
2) Clean your work surfaces
The flu virus can live for longer than 8 hours on most surfaces, so it’s important to wipe down any communal spaces frequently with an anti-bacterial and anti-viral spray. Alcohol gel kills pretty much everything, so keep a bottle on your desk at work and use often, especially if you are using meeting rooms or communal kitchen spaces. Think how many people handle the kettle in your office!
3) Boost your nutrition
Stay healthy from the inside by eating to support your immune system. This doesn’t mean taking so many supplements that you rattle like a pill jar… instead, really focus on eating a broad range of food – particularly fruit and vegetables. Try and eat as many different colours of fruit and veg as possible as this will ensure you are getting the full range of vitamins and minerals. ‘Good’ fats are also important to winter well-being, so keep up with your intake of oily fish, avocado, olive oil and nuts and seeds.
If you do get a head cold, hot, spicy foods and ginger can help to flush out some of the mucus so that you can breathe more easily. In addition, foods such as turmeric, onion and garlic can also help your body to fight infections.
4) Get some help
Ok, so we said supplements aren’t essential, but there is one that is universally recommended in winter and that is Vitamin D. Our bodies naturally manufacture vitamin D from sunlight, but in the winter we spend less time outside and tend to cover up more of our body. With this in mind, a daily vitamin D3 supplement (4,000IU is considered a safe upper limit) is a good idea to make sure you top up your natural reserves.
5) Get on your bike!
Cycling is a great preventative for winter colds. Many viruses are contracted in busy public spaces such as on public transport, when you’re pushed up against lots of other people and there’s no room to escape their sneezes and germs. Getting outside on your bike will keep your body healthy and strong, and the fresh air and regular exercise will do wonders for your immune system. So embrace these crisp autumn mornings and chilly evenings and make the most of the quieter cycle lanes – it will help to clear your head in more ways than one!