Remember back in March when most of us thought that coronavirus would be nothing but a memory before the summer was over? The reality is that the infection is continuing to affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Although you may be raring to get back to your PC (pre-corona) life, it’s important to stay as healthy as possible – both physically and mentally – and protect yourself and your loved ones from the illness during winter.
Will the virus spread quicker in the winter?
Viruses are more likely to survive outside the body in colder temperatures. The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) says 4˚C is the optimum temperature for coronavirus.
A simple thing we can do to help is use the NHS Trace and Track app. Dr Ranj Singh, the resident doctor on This Morning , says, ‘I had a sneak preview of the new version and it’s a huge improvement on the initial pilot and very easy to use.’
We still need to pay extra attention to hand hygiene. ‘We have become more conscious of this and it’s likely to be more important during winter.
Washing regularly with soap and water is fine, or use alcohol hand gel when you don’t have access to those,’ said Dr Ranj. Social distancing and mask-wearing should also continue to increase our safety.
Covid or just a cold?
The bad news is that there is some overlap between the symptoms of Covid and a less serious illness such as a cold or the flu, but the good news is the majority of people will be OK and not need to go to hospital.
‘Just be vigilant and seek medical advice if things are getting bad or you’re getting more and more unwell,’ explains Dr Ranj. He added, ‘Don’t assume everything is corona!’ because panicking about every symptom can cause unnecessary stress.
But there are a few symptoms that are fairly unique to Covid that we can look out for. ‘The main clues that it may be coronavirus are a loss of taste or smell but this doesn’t happen to everyone.
A new fever, cough, and change in sense of smell or taste are still currently the screening symptoms to look out for. The general advice is the same – if you become unwell, isolate and get tested.’
How can I limit my chances of contracting the illness?
There are some simple ways to keep yourself healthy, and boost your immune system. These tips apply all year round, including the winter. Dr Ranj explains:
‘Number 1 – pay attention to eating as healthily as you can because getting enough nutrition helps your body stay well in general.
‘Number 2 – try to get as much physical activity as you can because this boosts both your mental and physical health.
‘Number 3 – get some sleep. We often ignore how important this is but good quality sleep has long term impacts on our physical health, improves our mental wellbeing, and helps to support the immune system.’
How can I take care of my mental health?
According to a study by Mind, over half of adults who have never experienced mental health problems have been struggling during this period. Staying upbeat when the sun is no longer shining can make things even harder.
Life change experts Nik and Eva Speakman suggest having a gratitude practice to stay positive. ‘Gratitude rewires your brain to look at the world in a different way.
‘We have a snooze button on our alarm, which is seven minutes long. In that time we think about all the things we’re grateful for and we usually get to about 50 in seven minutes. Try it yourselves at home,’ they encourage.
You can also get family involved. ‘Whenever we say anything negative, we add, “but luckily” to the end of the sentence. If someone in your house says something negative shout, “but luckily” and get them to finish the sentence. They will soon catch on…’
What should I be eating and drinking?
There are sadly no miracle foods to prevent the disease, but there are small things we can do. Drinking plenty of water is one.
The NHS also encourages us to get as much Vitamin D as possible now that we’re spending more time indoors. Winter will make our chances of getting natural sunlight even less likely, and while vitamin D can be found in small amounts in oily fish, eggs and mushrooms, it’s advisable to take a supplement.
When we’re feeling stressed we might find ourselves reaching for a bottle of wine. Try to maintain a balanced diet, and limit alcohol to 14 units per week.
Are we likely to get a vaccine?
The best brains in the world of science are on the case – about 140 are currently in early development, and human trials are already underway.
Many experts think that it will be available from mid 2021 and would be life-changing for us all.