Tips to stay healthy this winter season

Boost your immune system to beat the bug

Thursday, March 13 2014

With the winter season fast approaching, and the influenza virus starting to make the rounds with its usual vigour, it’s important to keep your immune system strong and healthy.

“A few simple measures can boost your immune system and help prevent you getting the common cold, sinusitis or even the dreaded ‘flu bug’,” advises Dr Neville Wellington, a general practitioner at Medicross Kenilworth in the Cape.

Here are a few valuable tips from Dr Wellington and Natasha Conrad, Pharmacy Manager at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, to help you stay healthy and boost your immune system as the weather turns colder:

  • Get vaccinated with the latest influenza vaccine well ahead of winter. Each year, new vaccination formulations are developed based on the latest influenza strains. The vaccination is made up of a chemically inactivated virus, which enables the body to get to know and store the ‘shape’ of the virus so that when you are exposed to the actual virus, the body is armed to fight it.
  • Regularly using a saline nasal spray could be most effective when those troublesome sniffles and sneezes start. Use the spray four to six times a day when you feel a cold or sinusitis starting to creep up on you.
  • Eat healthy and nutritious meals, including generous portions of fruit and vegetables, protein for cellular repair and foods containing healthy fats and oils such as fish, nuts and avocados.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water and fluids.
  • Consider taking a multivitamin. Vitamin and mineral supplements, particularly those containing zinc and vitamin C, will help boost your immune system and help you fight off colds and flu.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help prevent the spread of germs.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people. Germs are spread through close contact as well as the air and
  • can enter your system via your eyes, nose and mouth. Try and keep your distance from people who are sick and wash your hands immediately if you have had physical contact with them.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking impacts your body’s ability to absorb many essential vitamins and minerals and drains it of these vital nutrients, especially vitamin C. Ask your doctor for advice on how to quit smoking and also think about taking a vitamin C supplement.

If you fall ill with a cold or the flu, remember the following, advises Dr Wellington:

  • Prevent the further spread of harmful germs by coughing or sneezing into your bended elbow and blowing your nose into a tissue and not a handkerchief. Dispose of the tissue immediately into a dustbin.
  • Get enough rest. While getting enough sleep is good for your health in general as it helps keep your immune system strong, you should also stay at home and rest if you have cold or flu-like symptoms. This will give your body the chance to fight the virus and will also prevent spreading the virus to others such as colleagues at the office.
  • Treating flu with antibiotics is not advisable as flu is caused by a virus and antibiotics are only effective against bacteria. Secondary infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia respond well to antibiotics. Take paracetamol to help alleviate your symptoms and discomfort. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about your condition.

This year’s flu vaccine as well as medication are available at Netcare pharmacies located in all Medicross facilities and Netcare hospitals. Locate your closest facility by visiting and



Issued by : Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Sarah Beswick or Jillian Penaluna
Telephone : (011) 469 3016
Email :, or