To effectively protect against influenza, a flu vaccination is the first port of call. However there are some good health habits to consider which will provide additional protection from the flu and the common cold. Some of the following tips will even minimise the spread of illness and reduce the risk of others being infected.

For a start stay rugged up in cold weather and be aware of changes in temperature. Sudden changes from hot to cold could effect those people who have a history of cold-related disorders. Unlike at home, in public areas such as your work building or shopping centres you won’t be able to control the room temperature. These over heated environments may cause you to take off layers whilst inside so be sure to put these clothing items back on before venturing back outside.

Hand hygiene is essential, as washing your hands properly and frequently will help protect you from germs. Please see the World Health Organisation guidelines on health hygiene for a thorough explanation of how to wash your hands. Warm water and soap will kill the germs if your hands are washed slowly for at least forty seconds.

Eventually though you will have to touch something and since potentially any surface can contain germs, your hands are bound to have germs on them at some point in the day. As such it is best to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and further to this it is better to use a fork or spoon to put food in your mouth to avoid using your hands. If eating a sandwich you can put a paper towel around it to avoid hand to mouth contact. Obviously the degree to which you follow this will depend on the environment you are in. The practices you use at home will differ to those who work in a hospital.

For items that you frequently share with others at home or work, clean and disinfect these especially when someone within either of these environments is ill. Carrying around a little bottle of alcohol-based cleanser or some antiseptic wipes will allow you to keep regularly shared items and your hands disinfected.

Although the flu season’s cooler weather can make exercise a less inviting option keep in mind that staying fit will give you the upper hand over infection. Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes a day strengthens your heart and keeps your immune system in a germ-fighting state. To support this, a study has shown a reduction in infection of the upper airways within physically fit and active adults.

If you already have the flu the general rule is that it is ok to exercise if your symptoms are above the neck, for example a stuffy nose or sneezing. Otherwise if you have a fever, cough or chills then hold off from exercising until you have fully recovered.

Other than exercise, diet is something that can place you in good stead for the flu season. Drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious food will compliment your exercise and should you succumb to the flu your body will have a head start.

A good nights sleep and stress reduction will also help keep those sicks days at bay, yet if after all this you still manage to contract the flu or a cold, it is advised to stay at home, rest and avoid close contact with others until you are feeling better again.

As always if you need advice or guidance for the flu or colds regarding prevention or remedy please consult your GP.