Stay flu free this winter

Parents and children in bed

Parents and children in bed - Credit: Getty Images/BananaStock RF

See your family through the winter flu free with our complete guide to staying healthy

After a busy summer of weddings, christenings, birthdays and holidays it is easy to find yourself at this time of year feeling run down. With all those pesky bugs doing the rounds again, especially when the children start back at school, you’re going to need something a little stronger than hot lemon to see you through the winter flu free.

I spoke to Hampshire GP Dr Hugh Freeman, Chair of North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group, to get the latest tips and advice on how to stay healthy this season. With over 30 years experience as a GP and a contributor to the Hampshire Health and Wellbeing Board, no doubt he’s seen it all!

Tummy Troubles

Your summer holiday might seem like a distant memory already, along with the tan, but you may still have some niggling reminders, like that dodgy tummy that still hasn’t gone away? It can be perfectly normal to feel the after effects of a stomach upset long after the major symptoms have disappeared.

“It can take a little time to recover from a holiday tummy bug”, says Dr Freeman, “drink plenty of water and go easy on spicy foods and alcohol for starters!”

Best to lay off the curries for a few weeks then, but how do we get an upset stomach in the first place?

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“Bacterial infections are quite common if uncooked or poorly cooked food has been eaten and this can happen when travelling overseas. Next years holiday might seem a long way off, but prevention is always a good idea, so next summer try to remember some simple tips. Generally I would say be careful with water and ice cubes abroad and the cooked food - mainly chicken. Campylobacter is the bug you get in this situation and the incidence has risen nationally. Salmonella is another nasty bacterial infection. It is rarer than campylobacter, but the issues are the same. Dirty hands and undercooked food put you at risk of stomach bugs.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? However, at this time of year we aren’t out of the woods. With the little ones starting back at school, we’ll have all the joys of stomach bugs to worry about, as well! Is there anything we can do to avoid the dreaded lurgy?

“There are several things we can all do to try and stop getting stomach bugs. Hand cleanliness has been shown to cut infections by 30%. In children 70% of tummy upsets are caused by Rotavirus,’ adds Dr Freeman. “Adults are by and large immune to Rotavirus, but when living in close quarters - cruise ships is one example - then adults can get Norovirus. Both are very unpleasant and hygiene plays a big part in keeping these viruses at bay. It’s such a simple tip, but clean hands can play a huge role in staying healthy.”

It’s worth stocking up on alcohol hand gel and antibacterial wipes to keep in your handbag but they are no substitute for a good old hand wash with hot, soapy water. To ensure a good result, sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice to ensure that you’re washing your hands for long enough!

All Bunged Up

After a summer of hay fever, it’s not uncommon to find yourself lumbered with a cold - what luck! “There is no real treatment for a cold and no quick recovery. You need to eat well, sleep well, take regular exercise and wait - you just have to be patient and look after yourself until the cold gets better. I don’t think any of us are good at waiting when we don’t feel well!”

To stay well this season there are a few things we can do to protect ourselves and loved ones - hand cleanliness and food preparation hygiene are Dr Freemans top tips, but what else should we be aware of?

“We all need to think before we visit vulnerable people if we have coughs, colds or tummy bugs. If we can avoid contact we should try to do so. It doesn’t make sense to inflict our germs on someone who is already less strong because of a medical condition or age or a combination. Maybe we all need to be a little bit more thoughtful.”