Brits are being urged to get their flu and Covid vaccinations as soon as possible over fears a winter “twindemic” poses a significant risk to the public.
UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) officials are concerned that the major wave of coronavirus that is already building will coincide with flu infections in the coming months.
While Covid restrictions kept influenza at extremely low levels in the past three years, the return to almost pre-pandemic levels of mixing in the UK means the virus is ripe to bounce back this season, when immunity in the population is low.
Health experts are particularly concerned about the H3N2 flu strain, which caused influenza to return early to Australia.
H3N2 can lead to more severe illness than other flu strains.
It was the cause of the UK's most recent severe flu season in 2017–18, which resulted in around 22,000 additional deaths and twice as many hospital admissions.
Steve Russell, the NHS director for vaccinations and screening, explained, “This winter could be the first time we see the effects of the so-called ‘twindemic’ with both Covid and flu in full circulation, so it is vital that those most susceptible to serious illness from these viruses come forward for vaccines in order to protect themselves and those around them.”
But, alongside the vaccines, what can you do to boost your immunity?
Here are a few things you can do to boost your immunity before the expected ‘twindemic’
For all those who are eligible, taking up both the Covid-19 booster and the flu jab is an essential form of protection against the most severe respiratory viruses in circulation this winter.
The gut also plays a vital role in strengthening the immune system. If you provide your digestive system with an ideal habitat and plenty of nutrients, in turn, the gut helps train and shape the immune system.
Having a healthy diet, rich in plants and gut-friendly fermented foods, as well as probiotics, can help fight infection at a faster rate.
Of course, diet alone does not necessarily mean a person will have a strong immune system that can fight off covid and other illnesses.
As well as a high-quality diet, your immune system can be strengthened by exercise and good-quality sleep.
Cutting back on alcohol and quitting smoking can also do wonders. And, this one almost goes without saying but regular handwashing is one of the best things you can do for your immune system, as it eliminates the chances of infection.
How does the immune system work?
Your immune system protects your body from pathogens, like dangerous bacteria and viruses, that pose a threat to your health.
It can spring into action to defend you from pathogens, releasing antibodies to fight them.
Over time, antibodies fade, but the memory of the original pathogen endures.
Identical copies of these antibodies will be mass-produced in the event of a future infection, meaning your body will be primed able to fight it off if it comes into contact with the same infection again.