As we enter September the alarm bells have already started ringing: an under-funded NHS, long waits for the doctor and, importantly, the dreaded flu virus. If you are pregnant, over the age of 65 or suffer from a small number of specific conditions, you are eligible for a flu vaccine on the NHS. However, for those of us who aren’t guaranteed a shot, we’ve put together a list of science-backed methods for avoiding the flu and staying healthy this autumn.

1. Eat yoghurt, mushrooms & chilli

To be clear, this doesn’t mean eat them together. However, each food has its own winter benefits. Probiotic yogurt in two separate studies showed a 12% decrease in respiratory infections, a 34% reduction in cold symptom severity and patients recovered from the flu two days quicker.

Eating mushrooms has been shown to boost the body’s levels of T cells: a key component of the immune system necessary to repel infection. Chilli, as is well known, can significantly relieve congestion.

Other good foods include anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables, with research claiming broccoli, cabbage and kale have the biggest boost to the immune system.

2. Stay hydrated

Making sure you drink a lot of water is essential for the winter season. The cold weather can often stops us realising we may be dehydrated. However, loading up on fluids is essential for thinning out the mucus in the body. Thinner mucus is easier for the body to clear out, meaning you’re less likely to get ill.

3. Keep clean

If you need to sneeze, make sure it is directed into your elbow. Additionally, don’t be worried about appearing rude by turning your back to someone else sneezing. Germs need to physically enter your body so the more difficult you make it the better.

Try to regularly wipe down doorknobs or regularly touched surfaces with antibacterial spray. Wash your hands often and try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth, as this is an easy access route for bacteria.

Furthermore, it has been recommended to keep a window open in your house or office. It may be cold but keeping the air circulating keeps bacteria moving and less likely to get stuck on you.

4. Put the gym routine on hold for a while

Whilst some light exercise can make you feel better, using up all your body’s energy in the gym leaves it with less to fight off any bacteria. With the same logic, if your diet is leading you to walk around hungry all day, it’s also likely not to be providing your immune system with enough energy to fight a potential infection.

5. Disinfect your phone!

Each square inch of your phone screen can contain up to 25,000 germs. Other measures claim it’s 18 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Whilst a horrible thing to picture, the frequency with which your fingers or cheek touch the screen means it’s a great idea to keep it sanitised regularly.

If you are feeling unwell and symptoms persist, then be sure to see a doctor for treatment. With the Qure app you can see a doctor at the time and location of your choice, to help you fight the flu before it gets worse. Download the app here -> http://onelink.to/jtygac.

Charlie Haringtonflu, cold, virus, doctor