Tips For Not Getting Sick This Winter

May 31, 2017

Winters are always the busy times of the year for medical centres with people complaining of suffering from colds coughs, and flus.  However, there are a number of practical strategies that you can do (beyond getting your flu shot) to stop you from getting sick in the first place and having to consult your local GP.  This is what this article will focus on.


Why Do We Get Sick?

Humans have an immune system that helps our body to fight against bacteria and infections amongst other things.  It has to be finely tuned, so that it knows when to activate itself and when not to.  For some people they actually have an overactive immune system, which can cause them to have cold/ flu like symptoms (e.g., having a fever).  However, usually humans will get sick when their immune system is weakened through stress, over work, worry or when they are in a new environment with different bacteria in the air.  For example, it is usually the case when we travel our immune systems are not as effective because we are not use to the new environment that we are in.

I’ll never forget travelling in Vietnam and getting violently ill after taking a motorcycle taxi home one day.  It literally took my body months to fully recover from the infection.  Upon initially getting sick, my body didn’t fight the infection like it would normally do.  It was almost like it didn’t know how or that my immune system was completely ineffective in fighting it.


# Tip 1: Take Vitamin C & Zinc Tablets

The most important time when you get sick is the 24-48 hours once you start to feel not 100% ok.  For me it is the scratchy throat, when I can feel a cold or flu coming on.  Over the past 2 years I have started sucking Vitamin C/ Zinc tablets which helps to gently stimulate my immune system to fight the infection.  I have not been sick in over 2 years through religiously following this step.  The key is catching the infection early.  This step will not work if you don’t act within the first 48 hours.  And if you do, you will generally find that your sore throat and infection is gone within 12 hours.  The next time you start to get sick take the time to visit your local pharmacy.


# Tip 2: Keep Warm

In winter you have to be especially mindful of your body temperature.  Your body has this amazing way of telling you when it is a little bit cold.  We generally lose heat through our chest, head, fingers and toes.  If you can keep these parts of your body warm (especially when you are at home) you will be doing well.  For example, always wear socks and slippers around the house and wear a vest or jumper to keep your chest warm.  And if it is really cold – wear a beanie to keep your head warm.  Wearing thermals around the house is also a great idea in winter.  Much better than relying on the heater and saves on electricity bills.


# Tip 3: Stimulate Your Nervous System

In winter we tend to live very inactive, passive and comfortable existences.  And this makes sense because it is cold outside – we just want to stay inside and not do too much.  However, from time to time it is important to stimulate your nervous system.  There are few different ways of doing this.  One easy thing to do is to finish your morning shower with 30 seconds of cold water.  This will provide a shock to your nervous system and really wake you up.  Again this is something that I do religiously in winter and really find that it is a great way to start the day.


# Tip 4: Eat Well

In winter there is always a temptation not to eat as well as we will do in summer.  We all will go for the comfort food and drink a little more alcohol than we should (in winter).  My advice is to actually eat a lot (more than you would in summer) but of the right foods.  When you first wake up in the morning, make sure to have a protein or eggs based breakfast.  Try to limit all the big brand cereals – which are not going to give you the energy that you need.  During the day until 6 or 7 pm try and have another 2 significant sized meals.  Every meal should have some vegetables and meat (assuming it is not against your religion) and some complex carbohydrates (i.e., brown rice/ pasta).  Really try and stay away from white carbs (no rice, pasta, bread) if you can help it.  In the afternoon you will probably have a blood glucose dip, this is when you need to be eating some fruit instead of sweets.  Try and eat dinner early (say 5 or 6pm) to give your body plenty of time to digest before bed.  If you follow this routine and diet you won’t have to rely on will power alone and it will give you a lot more energy.


#Tip 5: Minimise Stress Levels

The fastest way of lowering your immune system is to live with significant amount of stress.  It is almost a causal relationship in the winter between stress and getting sick.  If you pass a certain stress threshold – then you will get sick.  Apart from eating and sleeping, another way of managing stress is to minimise our use of technology.  Studies are now examining the link between technology use and stress.  People don’t fully realise how stressful using technology is.  Specially the anticipation of communication with other people.  While technology is a part of everyone’s lives these days, it is recommended that we have at least 1 technology free day every week.  It is also recommended that we try and meditate or do something that brings a state of flow everyday in our lives.  For those of you who are interested in meditating, try downloading the Headspace app on your phone.  If meditating isn’t for you, why not go for a walk, spend some time in nature, join a sports team or spend some quality time with loved ones.  I especially love the Saturday and Sunday sleep ins with my wife.  All of these activities will help to minimise your stress levels and help you to fight against illness.

There is no reason why you have to get sick this winter and have to visit a doctor at your local medical centre.  A lot of it comes down to headspace and following these 5 basic tips.  Set yourself of the goal of going this entire winter without getting sick!