Walking the Ramblers through a difficult flu season

Dr Hilary Jones talks about what we can do to help keep our immune system strong this winter

How can we protect our health beyond walking this winter? 

My name is Dr Hilary Jones and some of you may know me from Good Morning Britain, where, over the last few years I have talked about the health of the nation. But between the show, I balance working at my GP surgery and keeping physically active. Like everyone else I have my weaknesses, I like the occasional treat, but on the whole, I eat well, and I take full care of my wellbeing in every way I can. This is why a few weeks ago I got my flu jab and Covid-19 booster at the same time. To some people, this might sound unnecessary, or over the top, however, from a medical perspective I believe it’s the best thing I’ve done to protect my health this year.

Remembering how to stay safe throughout winter 

We all made sacrifices in the depths of the Covid pandemic, including staying inside to protect loved ones from an unknown and contagious virus. The Covid pandemic masked the threat of flu with lockdowns and PPE helping to prevent its spread. But, with the return to the rhythms of ordinary life, flu has returned, and we need to take it seriously.  

A typical flu season runs from September through to March, so we’re right in the middle of it now, and it is vital we continue to take precautions to protect ourselves. Contrary to popular belief, seasonal influenza is far more severe than a cold. It can often leave people bed-bound and unable to reach for the remote, let alone leave the house. You might only have flu once or twice in your lifetime, but if you have had it, you’ll know. It’s an awful virus. It can leave you heavily fatigued, and even lead to hospitalisation.

Co-circulation of flu and Covid  

Every year I have my flu vaccination in preparation for the winter ahead, knowing I can enjoy the winter season with the comfort of added immunity protection. Now, with winter seeing the co-circulation of flu and Covid, vaccinations are playing an even more important role in protecting our health. Did you know, you can also activate your immune system when exposed to the cold, enhancing your ability to fight infections, which is a great reason for you to keep walking outside this winter.

Keeping fit and feeling fine 

We all lead busy lives and as a busy individual, it is so important to me that I take care of my health. Exercise and physical activity have always been major parts of my life. You may remember my appearance on ‘Dancing on Ice’, which personally I try to forget, but it is a good example of the things I do, and it certainly helped me to keep a unique eye on my health.  

Yet, though leading an active life has clear and tangible health benefits, age has an unseen impact on our health. In fact, from the age of 50 our immunity naturally begins to decline, making vaccination an important addition to protect our health. 

Prioritising our physical health means we can continue walking and enjoying the great outdoors, and vaccinations will help us to continue to do this and enjoy company with reduced risk. For me, physical activity is inextricably linked to mental wellbeing. And, taking the opportunity to boost my immune system can help this continue, protecting our physical and mental health this winter. 

Questions about flu vaccinations?  

If you’ve never had a flu jab before, it can be difficult to know where to start. It can be even more difficult to know whose voices we can trust. If you are unsure, there so many routes to be pursued, such as contacting a pharmacist or GP.

Anyone who is eligible can book both their flu and Covid-19 vaccinations via the National Booking Service or by calling 119, through their GP practice, or by visiting a participating community pharmacy.

On behalf of CSL Seqirus.

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