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How to avoid colds and flu

While it’s not the cold weather that will make you sick, there is an increased risk of illness during the winter months, with research showing the change in seasons affects how our immunity system functions.

In addition, the colder weather creates conditions that germs can not only survive in, but thrive and spread far more rapidly.

Colds and flu are the most common illnesses during the winter months; indeed, there are more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold.

Influenza is produced by a different strain of viruses and is far more severe, creating serious health risks for infants and the elderly.

It’s important to remember that antibiotics are a completely unsuitable option to treat colds and flu as these medications are only effective on bacterial infections. 

Protecting yourself and others
There are steps you can take to ensure you can protect yourself and those around you this winter:

Make sure you get the flu vaccination. This will shield you from several different influenza variations and can also help reduce the severity of any symptoms if you do contract the flu.

Always follow the wash, wipe, and cover rule. Colds and flu can be easily spread via the germs on our hands. Reduce the risk of infection or passing on infections to others by always washing your hands, wiping down surfaces with disinfectant, and covering your coughs and sneezes with tissues or even the crook of your arm.

Eating a balanced diet of nutritious fruits and vegetables, as well as keeping up a regular routine of exercise will help to improve your overall immune system and really boost your chances of warding off colds.

What to do if you do get sick
Don’t go to work! While you may feel like you’re letting your co-workers down by not coming to the office, you’re actually doing them a huge favour.

While you’re showing symptoms of a cold or flu, you’re highly contagious. By dragging yourself into the office, you’re actually running a higher risk of affecting overall productivity because you’ll almost certainly infect others. Not to mention your own decision-making could be affected, not just by cold and flu symptoms, but even from the side-effects of the medication you’re taking.

You need rest and lots of it. Stay home, get plenty of nutritious foods into you, take appropriate medications where needed, and don’t run the risk of introducing a widespread infection to your whole workplace.

If you’re unsure of whether you have the common cold or the flu, consult your GP as they will have treatment options that can assist reduce the severity of influenza.

How to tell the difference between a cold and the flu:


Symptoms Cold Flu


Onset Slow Sudden

Aches Minor Typical

Fever Uncommon Typical

Sore throat Typical Occasionally

Headache Uncommon Frequent

Fatigue Occasionally Typical

Chills Uncommon Typical

Cough Minor Typical

Blocked nose Typical Occasionally

Sneezing Typical Occasionally


Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.

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