Monthly Archives: July 2016

How To Avoid Colds And Flu In The Autumn

This month’s guest blog post offers guidance to students about applying to study in the UK and is provided by Gemma Burns:

The UK has many things going for it, but its climate is not always one of them. The island of Great Britain has one of the most unpredictable weather profiles in the world, prone to lightning, fast changes and baffling about turns. You can indeed have four seasons in a single day – sometimes in a single hour. However, while it’s really lovely while the sun shines, cold, damp weather is something you’re definitely going to experience a lot of. And you’ll get more than average during the autumn. With everything perpetually soaking wet and the climate turning colder, viruses like the common cold and flu find it easier to take hold. Autumn can be a test of your staying powers in Britain – and you can pass this test with far greater ease if you protect yourself from colds and flu! Here are a few tips which might help:

Hygiene
In a study environment, viruses can spread with lightning speed. Lecture theatres and classrooms become giant petri dishes, ideal locations for colds and flu viruses to incubate, gather strength, and infect multiple people. This effect is exacerbated if you’re living in communal dwellings or engaging in communal activities. It tends to be the case that if one person goes down with a virus in these situations, they take a good chunk of their friends, neighbours, and classmates down with them. There is no sure-fire way in which to protect yourself from germs – they move quickly, and pass easily from person to person. In order to completely preserve yourself from colds you’d have to seal yourself off from your fellow students (which wouldn’t be particularly friendly). However, you can minimize your risks of succumbing to infection by practising good personal hygiene – disinfecting your hands regularly, always using clean utensils and so on. Always be careful when touching your face in cold season, as it’s through your airways that the viruses take hold. If you really want to avoid colds, you could try wearing a surgical mask – but be warned, many British people will consider this at best strange and at worst rude.

Vitamin C
There are lots of ways in which to improve your immune system – some better than others. Eating healthily and keeping fit will give you a far greater chance of staying virus-free as autumn advances than leading an unhealthy, couch-potato lifestyle. However, if you really want to fire up your immune system, eat plenty of foods containing Vitamin C. Contrary to popular belief, this will not help to cure you if you do come down with a cold. But it can make your immune system a lot stronger, meaning that you’re more able to stop colds in their tracks. Don’t leave it until you start feeling sniffly to chug the orange juice – up your Vitamin C intake as soon as you can in order to prevent colds from getting a hold on you.

Stay Warm And Dry
One of the reasons why people get colds in colder weather is because the human immune system is weaker when we’re colder. Another is that the common cold and flu viruses prefer cold noses in which to gather their strength. Staying warm will boost your immune system, and discourage cold viruses from using your nose as an incubation chamber. And staying dry will help you to stay warm. Now, typically, Britain in autumn is not a warm, dry place and, while you can hopefully keep your accommodation pretty warm and dry, you have to step out into the chilly damp sometimes. What are you to do on these occasions? Well, it’s all about clothing. Umbrellas and waterproof outerwear can help to keep you dry. To stay warm, wear multiple layers – these trap warm air and help you to maintain a comfortable body heat. Wearing a waterproof hat or hood is also advisable, as wet hair does not dry as quickly as wet skin, and will insinuate cold and damp throughout your body. Curiously, it’s also very important to keep your feet warm and dry, as your body takes a surprising amount of temperature cues from your feet. So invest in a good pair of waterproof boots, and learn the fine art of layering socks!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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