Four things you can do to boost your immune system during cold and flu season

The combination of an adequate and balanced diet, with regular physical exercise, a stress-free life, vaccination and the adoption of certain treatments left over from the pandemic years of covid-19 is ideal.

With the end of summer and the beginning of autumn come back the common cold, but also the flu and covid-19.

Although the month of October was not the most typical, the temperatures will drop and with the arrival of the cold, diseases will also appear. Theoretically, the cold can affect the sensitivity of cells and make them more susceptible to infection.

Epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist Helen Chu of the University of Washington School of Public Health explains that viruses transmit more easily in drier and colder environments, which means that during months when temperatures are lower, like December and January, the flu peaks.

Falling ill is therefore a nightmare for many people. Chills, stuffy nose, cough, body, throat and head aches, fever, malaise and so many other associated symptoms. While there is no “magic bullet or golden food” that keeps us from getting infected, as public health specialist Bernardo Gomes points out to CNN Portugal, certain aspects of lifestyle can help. strengthen the immune system and therefore be less susceptible to disease.

According to the specialist, the formula – which only helps and is not infallible – combines a balanced diet, regular physical exercise, a stress-free life, vaccination and the adoption of certain treatments left over from the pandemic years of the Covid-19.

Balanced diet

Following a healthy diet is perhaps one of the most important points in strengthening the immune system. The nutrients and supplements present, especially in fruits and vegetables, are essential for the body to have the ability to fight viruses, explains Bernardo Gomes, reiterating that there are no “golden foods”. The trick is in the balance.

According to a study published in 2011by David Nieman, an American professor of biology, found that adults who ate at least three fruits a day had fewer respiratory infections over the years than those who ate less.

In addition, other factors such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol can weaken the immune system.

physical exercise helps

Doing physical exercise with some regularity can be a good ally in preventing disease, explains Bernardo Gomes. Nieman’s team’s study found that those who exercised five or more times per week were around 43% less likely to contract disease than those who exercised less than once per week. . Despite everything, the latter, even if they only take a short walk throughout the week, showed better results than those who did nothing.

Exercise stimulates cells that “patrol the body” in search of infected cells, identify them and eliminate them. Being active during the week doesn’t require high-intensity exercise, it just means that a sedentary lifestyle needs to be counteracted a few days a week, either with walks or, for example, dancing.

Rest should not be overestimated

If, on the one hand, physical exercise is an essential factor, on the other hand, a good night’s sleep, as well as a life without great exposure to stress, is essential for the immune system. It also implies that excessive exercise can also be harmful. Studies indicate that those who sleep fewer hours than recommended – an adult should sleep between six and eight hours – or who do not get quality nights may have a weakened ability to fight off viruses.

Despite the difficulty in reducing stresscertain techniques can help, such as meditation or yoga, as well as enjoying leisure activities for a few minutes.

Vaccination and pandemic management

Vaccination is a strong ally against viruses, explains Bernardo Gomes, especially for the most vulnerable groups. Take the booster dose against covid-19, namely those adapted to the new variants which arecurrently administered in Portugal, and vaccination against the different strains of influenza are an asset against illnesses, or at least against serious illnesses.

In addition, the Public Health doctor recommends that certain habits, formerly compulsory during the state of emergency, be maintained “on a voluntary basis”. The specialist affirms that, especially at this time of the year and in closed spaces, masks are a means of protection against all types of viruses.

Kathi Heffner, professor of nursing, quoted by the New York Times, adds that the pandemic has taught the world “the importance of washing your hands and keeping your distance if there are signs of constipation”, which still needs to be followed. Chu also warns that in the presence of symptoms “people should stay home and rest”, to prevent the spread of the virus.

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