Boost your immune system to fight the flu
The infection spreads more widely in winter months as the virus becomes more stable when the air is cold and dry.
As temperatures cool down, the sound of sneezing and sniffling gets louder reminding us that the flu season is back.
Seasonal influenza, commonly known as the flu, is caused by the influenza virus that affects our respiratory system, mainly nose and throat, and can vary in symptoms ranging from mild to severe symptoms.
The infection spreads more widely in winter months as the virus becomes more stable when the air is cold and dry. In the UAE, health authorities define the flu season as extending from September to April.
What is scary is that the airborne virus is gradually turning more resistant to antiviral drugs and increasing the number of deaths worldwide.
Health experts in the UAE are urging residents to get flu vaccinations at the earliest. The basics of flu prevention include general hygiene habits like washing hands before eating and avoiding contact with sick peers.
Flu season may be inevitable but we can ward off the infectious disease by revving up our immune system. Have you noticed that two people may have the same exposure to a sick friend - and yet one of them gets sick, while the other doesn't? The difference is often their immune system.
Speaking on ways to boost immunity against the seasonal flu, Dr Nisha Soares, consultant paediatrics at Al Zahra Hospital, Sharjah, said that one of the most powerful tools for a strong immune system can be found right in your own kitchen - it's about the food you eat.
"This is a great time to make diet changes: Pile up fruits and vegetables as studies show that people who eat a lot of them get sick less. The nutrients can help your immune system fight viruses and bacteria. Also, regular exercise boosts immunity. According to Harvard Health, you are more likely to get struck by flu when you don't exercise and stay indoors than actually going out in the cold."
She added: "Iron deficiency affects the immune system, especially of children. A 2016 study published by the National Institute of Health found that the overall function of immune cells was much lower in children with iron deficiency."
Dr Fernanda Bonilla, consultant, infectious diseases at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said: "The best thing one can do to protect themselves from flu is to get a vaccine. The flu vaccine protects against the most common strains, significantly reducing a person's chances of contracting the virus.
"By getting the flu vaccine, you are preparing your immune system to fight in case you come into contact with the flu. Flu vaccines cannot 'give you the flu'."
Dr Bonilla added that it is important that people get enough sleep as it helps with immunity. "Adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep while teens and children need 10 or more hours. Well-balanced meals, high in fruits and vegetables, to maintain a healthy weight and regular exercise are also a must to keep away diseases.
"Avoiding contact with people who have contracted the flu and washing hands with soap and using sanitiser can significantly help reduce exposure to the flu virus," she added.
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