How to boost your immune system and make it through cold season
You may be stocking up on cough sweets and tissues if the season is getting colder and you are concerned about respiratory infections.
There is more you can do to try and avoid getting sick, though it may not be possible to avoid all infections. These three strategies will help you get through the cold season feeling strong.
Boost your immune system
Start out by drinking plenty of fluids to keep your mucous membranes in the nasopharynx moist. This makes it harder for pathogens to survive, says sports scientist Ingo Froböse of the German Sport University Cologne.
Drink around 30 millilitres of fluid per kilogramme of body weight per day, preferably water and unsweetened teas. So if you weigh 70 kilograms, you should drink at least 2.1 litres a day.
What also helps your immune system is a balanced diet with plenty of variety. Get a good supply of the micronutrients iron and zinc during the cold season, says Froböse. Your body needs them so your T-cells - the cells that detect viruses in our body - can work properly. You find iron and zinc in oats, lentils, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, for example.
Exercise also helps strengthen your body's own defences, so try and take regular walks out in the fresh air.
Prevent infection by washing your hands
When someone sneezes or coughs, that spreads pathogens via saliva and nasal secretions, says Germany's Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA). They may reach your hands and then your mucous membranes if you touch your face, thereby spreading infection.
You can cut the risk of infection if you wash your hands thoroughly several times a day, taking 20 to 30 seconds. Washing your hands is a must when you come home from being out and about, before you eat, after using the toilet, blowing your nose or being in contact with people who are ill.
By all means wear a face mask in public settings, but know that clinical research has not proven beyond doubt that masking can help prevent influenza infections. It is nonetheless a good idea to mask up if you yourself are feeling symptoms of an infection.
Check in on your medicine cabinet
Do you have lozenges to hand for when you start to get a scratchy throat? Now is a good time to check the expiry date on what you have in your medicine cabinet and dispose of any meds that have expired.
Bear in mind with cough syrups that once you open them, that may reduce their shelf life, so note down on the packaging when you opened it.
If you want to stock up on nasal sprays or drops, you shouldn't be tempted by fancy-sounding additives. Germany's Stiftung Warentest consumer advisers say ingredients such as dexpanthenol, aloe vera, camomile flower extract and essential oils are unnecessary, as there is not sufficient proof that they can provide additional help for your nose. Solutions that only contain water and salt are completely sufficient to help counter nasal congestion.