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How to fight off the flu this winter!

Published Tuesday, 18 February, 2014 by Beth Bradshaw

Can you hear that? The cough, splutter and sneeze of the person sitting next, behind and opposite you in your library, lecture or living room… Yep, that’s right! It’s the flu season, yippee…

Are you feeling sick, bunged up or suffering from a sore throat? Have you come down with the lurgy? I know I have. At times like these, you can’t help but want to be back at home with your mum’s comfort, care and reassurance. But now you’re on your own, and you’re very lucky if one of your flatmates will wait on you hand and foot, warm up soup and do the lemsip run for you. So it’s time we started to learn to look after ourselves!

Here are some top tips on how to avoid catching any illness going round campus and what to do if it’s too late.

Prevention

The most obvious, but washing your hands is so important as it’s the most effective way of preventing the spread of infections and bacteria. Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag when you’re out and about, they are usually priced at as little as 99p for a handy sized bottle.

Provide your body with a healthy diet full of nutritious vitamins and minerals so you can fight off any viruses with a strong immune system. Below are some of the best immune boosting foods available:

  • Mushrooms: full of anti-oxidants, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties which all play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Add to stir fries or your Bolognese for a nutrition boost.

  • Cabbage: contains glutamine which has been proven to strengthen our immune system against harmful bacteria which can lead to illnesses. You can buy a range of cabbages such a white, which you can use to make homemade coleslaw for your sandwiches or Savoy which is great in stews and soups.

  • Almonds: packed full of Vitamin E, known for its immune boosting properties. Almonds are a delicious, healthy snack and just one handful will provide you with around 40% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin E.

  • Grapefruits: not only are they packed full of Vitamin C, but also ‘flavonoids’ which are proven to increase immune system activity. Great for a quick, easy and nutritious breakfast and are only 29p each at Aldi this week – go get them!

But be aware students – heavy smokers and alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system and can make you more susceptible to catching more severe colds and more frequently. If you have come down with something, it’s definitely not a good idea to go on a night out as it will most likely make you feel worse, you need to rest and recover.

Little too late?

If you’ve already come down with something, you might be feeling quite lethargic, tired and the thought of food is out the question. Even I don’t feel like cooking or eating. However, in actual fact you need to eat up to 200 calories more than usual when you’re sick, because your body is busy using up all your energy trying to fight off an infection and trying to make you healthy again. Here are some foods that are sensitive to your appetite, will help some of your symptoms and restore some of your energy.

  • Ginger: my mum always buys me ginger ale/beer when I’m feeling sick, as it is full of anti-nausea properties and help can you stop feeling sick or even vomiting. You can also buy ginger teabags which are perfect when you’re feeling under the weather.

  • Soups/Broths: If you’re suffering from a sore throat and are finding it painful to swallow food, soup is a great and easy way to get some food down you. Chicken soup is a favourite in many households, as it helps our body fight the various stages of your cold, supposedly nourishes your soul (or so Grandma says!) and provides you with a range of nutrients which are easier to absorb in a liquid form as opposed to solid. I always add some cooked small pasta to the chicken soup to add some carbohydrates which boosts your energy. There is such a wide range of chicken soup available in the supermarkets, tinned or fresh, to suit all budgets. However, if you prefer and have the energy to make your own, here is a great recipe: Mama's Chicken Soup

  • Honey: 1 tbsp into some boiling water with the juice of a lemon is just the trick for a sore throat, as it helps kill the bacteria in the back of your throat.

  • Crackers: great to eat when you are sick, as they absorb the excess stomach acid when you’ve been sick. Stick to plain crackers though, and don’t go slathering them in butter or topping them with cheese as the dairy may irritate your stomach further.

  • Ever heard of the BRAT diet? It’s what some recommend you stick to after having an upset stomach. By just eating a simple diet of Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce and Toast, they will help you recover your body from an upset stomach. Sticking to bland foods won’t irritate your stomach or appetite and provide your body with the energy to recover from the illness. However, only stick to this guideline for 24-48 hours!

Drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest! Your lecturers won’t mind you missing lectures when you’re genuinely ill, so sit tight in bed for a few days (I’m sure that won’t be too difficult for most of us), resist the nights out and look after yourself. You’ll feel better and get back to your normal self in no time. But remember, if you don’t feel any better or even worse in 5-7 days, make an appointment with your local GP or university nurse just to be on the safe side.

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