May 2022 2nd edition

Boost immunity before flu season

Getting the flu vaccine and taking care of yourself by ensuring a healthy lifestyle are the two best ways to reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu this winter.

Getting your annual flu vaccination is the most effective way to protect yourself against flu and serious complications, says the Western Cape Delft Community Health Centre’s dietician, Tanja Venter.

She said you can also help your body to fight off infections by eating a well-balanced diet that includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“If you do catch a cold or the flu, having a strengthened immune system can help to reduce the severity of symptoms and the period of illness,” she adds. 

While no single food item can guarantee immunity against colds and flu, Venter says food rich in antioxidants can boost the immune system by ensuring that immune cells work optimally.

“Including butternut, pumpkin, citrus fruits (oranges), tomatoes, whole grains, milk and lean meats, and drinking lots of clean water can contribute to a healthier immune system, keeping colds and flu at bay.”

For infants and toddlers, up to the age of two, Venter says breastfeeding provides them with the best start to a healthy immune system.

Reduce stress

Other ways to ensure a healthy immune system include monitoring your well-being and stress levels.

Venter explains that long-term stress can affect the immune system, making the body vulnerable to infections.

“With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we often find ourselves stressed out, eating poorly and not doing enough exercise. Exercising can reduce stress and improve overall health,” says Venter.

You can also decrease stress by doing something that helps you unwind, such as drawing, painting, sewing, writing or cooking. 

“Other healthy habits for adults and children include good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or elbow and staying home when you are sick to avoid infecting others,” says Venter.

Visit your local clinic to get your flu vaccine, or for a check-up, if you develop any of the common flu symptoms, including a headache, fever or body chills, sore throat or cough (usually dry), tiredness and weakness, a runny or stuffy nose, aching muscles and vomiting, diarrhoea and high fever (common in children).

This information was supplied by the Western Cape Government.

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