There certainly was a chill in the air this morning and the early commute was full of the usual suspects: sleepy, sneezy, coughy… At this time of year, leading medical experts advise us that influenza does not have to be a fundamental part of the winter season.
Professor Kimberlin of the University of Birmingham, Alabama, USA writes that “Each year, an average of 24,000 people in the United States start the flu season alive and by the end of it have been killed by it…” He believes that this number could be greatly declined by getting an annual flu jab – available at most times of the year.
The NHS estimates that around 600 people a year die on average due to contracting the flu virus and propose that the best way to prevent the spread of flu is through good hygiene. By regularly cleaning surfaces such as keyboards, computer mice, telephones and door handles as well as washing your hands regularly with soap and water you can stop yourself from catching, or spreading, flu. If you are pregnant, elderly, have a serious medical condition or work or live in a care home you are able to get a flu jab for free from the NHS.
Mr Christofides of the Epsom and St Helier Hospitals NHS Trust in Surrey states that one factor which may contribute to a rise in flu levels in the winter is the lack of sunlight. By increasing your intake of vitamin D you can reduce your chances of developing flu along with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, depression and problems with blood pressure. Whilst sunlight makes up about 90% of the sources of vitamin D dietary sources include margarine, liver, oily fish and some breakfast cereals.
The take-home message is that those in high risk categories are welcome to visit their doctors’ surgery for a free flu vaccine and that everyone can reduce the chances of developing flu by practising healthy eating, good hygiene and keeping active. If you are unsure if your symptoms may be a cold, the flu, or something more serious read the excellent article by Consultant Respiratory Physician, Dr Lieske Kuitert: Winter colds, flu, and chest infections - differentiating between the wintry ailments.