- How to Prevent the Winter Flu November 26, 2019
Four defense measures to keep the flu at bay during the winter
It’s officially winter flu season - what are major flu symptoms, and how can we prevent them?
According to Dr. Taeha Chung of the Department of Family Medicine at Severance Hospital of Yonsei University Health System, the flu is a viral respiratory illness that infects the upper and lower lungs and is often confused with another virus, the common cold. Symptoms may seem similar, but while symptoms of the cold are centered on the head and neck (e.g., a cough, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, slight fever), flu symptoms appear everywhere, beginning with a fever followed by a headache and muscle and joint aches throughout the body.
So how can we prevent from getting the flu? The most effective way to defend against the flu virus is to get a flu shot. “The best month to get vaccinated is October or early November at the latest,” advises Professor Chung. Although it is best to get your shot by October, it is not too late to get one now or at any time during the winter flu season.
Other than vaccination, there are four healthy-living guidelines you can follow during the winter to strengthen your immunity and prevent the flu virus from invading your system.
1. Maintain your body temperature
Your body becomes distressed when the temperature outside your body fluctuates, and your immune system is affected accordingly. So when you’re outside in the cold, make sure to wear insulated clothes that can keep you warm and sustain your core body temperature.
2. Get at least seven hours of sleep
Your immune system does some of its best work when you get adequate sleep. Getting at least seven hours of sleep is beneficial for optimal immune system functioning, thus preventing respiratory viruses like the flu.
3. Exercise regularly for over 30 minutes daily
An oldie but goodie – work out! Getting over 30 minutes of moderate exercise that makes you break into a light sweat helps your body generate heat, thus boosting your immunity levels to protect yourself against the flu.
4. Drink 1.5 liters of fluids every day
During winter, it gets very dry both indoors and outdoors, and the same goes for your nose. The cold, dry winter air leaves the mucous membranes dry, cracked, and more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses like the flu. Therefore it’s essential to keep your system hydrated by drinking 1.5 liters of water daily to help your mucous membranes do their job of coating the respiratory system to protect it from pathogens. Also, make sure to set the humidity level between 40-60 percent when you are indoors.
Dr. Chung adds that you should also consume a balanced mix of nutrients that can strengthen your immune system, including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C and D. You can take supplements or eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals as well as healthy portions of high-quality protein and fatty fish.
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Established in 1885 as Korea's first modern medical institution, Yonsei University Health System (YUHS) has pioneered Korea's public health and medical development for over 133 years. YUHS is comprised of educational institutions such as the Graduate Schools of Public Health and Nursing, and the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing and Dentistry. For clinical care, YUHS oversees Severance Hospital, Gangnam Severance Hospital, Yongin Hospital, Dental Hospital , and Severance Mental Health Hospital.
Severance Check-up Center (in Korean)