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Winter is upon us, and along with the cooler weather come all the coughs and colds and lurgies. What can you do to keep yourself and your family well over the next few months? Thankfully each and every one of us have an amazing defence mechanism against all the viruses and bacteria out there. Our brilliant immune system! There are a few things that you can do to keep it functioning at its best.

Sleep – make sure you and your little people have plentiful opportunity for rest. Our bodies repair and restore when we are sleeping. Eat a rainbow of foods each day – plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet will ensure you have enough vitamins, minerals and energy to ensure your immune cells can work effectively. Try to minimise stress and make sure you exercise regularly.

Wash your hands often throughout the day to wash those bugs away. Make sure you cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and put used tissues in the bin. If you are really unwell it is best to stay home. This will prevent you spreading infection to family and friends in the community.

The flu shot is recommended for all adults and children over six months of age, particularly if you suffer from any other medical conditions. The vaccination will stimulate your immune system to make more defence antibodies that will be ready to fight should you come into contact with the influenza virus this winter. If you are over 65 years old, along with certain other higher risk groups of people, it is also recommended that have the pneumococcal vaccine at least once in your lifetime to protect you from pneumonia.

It is possible that probiotics may help support your immune system, but there is not currently any good quality research to prove this. There has also been no conclusive evidence to support the use of zinc, vitamin C or any herbal supplements in preventing the common cold or other winter infections.

Prevention is better than cure, but sometimes we all get sick.  If you are unwell over winter and you are worried always see your local GP for advice.

Dr Stella Ward

Dr Stella Ward  

Raised in rural Scotland, Stella graduated from medicine at the University of Glasgow in 2006 - two years later, she found herself on the sunny Gold Coast. Stella worked in the Emergency Department at Gold Coast Hospital for two years, returning to Scotland to complete the Diploma of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare before heading back down under for GP training in Mullumbimby. Stella also worked in Byron Bay and Murwillumbah, before completing her Fellowship in 2013. Stella enjoys all aspects of women's health, from contraception to pregnancy, menstrual issues, menopause and beyond - so much so that she is working toward a Certificate of Women's Health through the Royal Australian College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (just one of her many accreditations and accomplishments). Stella is married and lives with her husband and two small children on the Gold Coast, enjoying keeping active with surfing, yoga and running around after her kids // www.thesc.com.au