When your colleague is looking a little under the weather and won’t stop sneezing in your direction, it can be a little disconcerting. The chilly season is upon us and we’re all feverishly scrambling to boost our immunity. While there are a lot of urban myths about ways to avoid it, according to general practitioner Dr. Preeya Alexander, there are only a few methods that actually work when it comes to dodging the dreaded flu.

“The cold and flu are very different things. The flu knocks you down – hard – and people usually have high fevers, muscle aches, cough, significant fatigue and runny nose,” Alexander explains. She talked us through the three ways you can reduce your chances of getting sick this winter.

Flu shot

“A fabulous way to reduce your chances of contracting the flu – no vaccine is 100% effective but this certainly reduces risk! For people with certain medical conditions (like asthma or diabetes) they can get the flu shot free annually but there is no reason why healthy young people can’t get the flu shot- they just have to pay for it.

In Australia two flu shots are available – the trivalent and quadrivalent, which means it covers 3 or 4 main strains of the flu respectively. If you can’t afford a week off work in bed it’s worth a think.

Echinacea

There is some evidence to suggest that Echinacea can reduce the length and severity of the common cold, but its effect on immunity is not strongly supported by research.

My policy with many natural medicines is that if it does not cause harm and it makes the patient feel better then I am all for it. There are some natural therapies like fish oil that can affect the blood’s ability to clot so it’s worth checking sometimes what is safe and what isn’t with your GP.

Staying fit and active

There are real benefits to being fit, healthy, active and having a good diet. Not only does your immune system benefit but if you do end up contracting the flu, you’re likely to have a shorter course of illness and recover better. While it isn’t recommended that you do strenuous exercise if you do end up getting sick, getting your daily sweat on can boost your immunity and keep you fighting fit.”