Successfully Preparing for Winter

The last couple of winters has been rough. Anecdotally it seems that after being locked away from each other in the bid to avoid Covid, we were less exposed to other common viruses (respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), flu, common colds). Once we headed out into the world again, people were hit, sometimes hard, with illness after illness, especially through winter. If our immune system is strong it can help us to fight off infections. There is much we can do to look after our immune system to try and stay healthy through the winter ahead.

The Covid pandemic taught us about minimizing our exposure to viruses and maintaining these healthy habits through winter is important – using face masks, hand hygiene, and coughing and sneezing into your elbow. Preventing yourself from getting sick is still a good strategy.

But going back to basics to improve our overall health is also essential in terms of preventing illness. Our mind and body, (including our immune system) are all interconnected so we need to pay attention to the needs of both. We tend to look for miracle cures or focus on just one area of the body when we get ill. Consistent healthy habits that benefit both our physical and mental health are what are effective and protective long-term. 

Healthy habits to support your immune system (all year round, not just in the winter!):

  • don’t smoke
  • limit alcohol
  • keep away from sick people
  • prioritise sleep
  • minimise stress
  • protect your mental health (have routines, connect with others, spend time in nature, practice mindfulness, limit screen time and news)
  • stay active and physically fit
  • eat a rainbow diet of fruit and vegetables
  • choose lean meats
  • avoid highly processed foods
  • keep up-to-date with vaccinations and have a flu vaccination before winter begins.


There are some supplements that can be useful to have on hand in winter to strengthen your immune system:

  • Vitamin C can counteract the negative effects of stress on the body. The human body cannot produce Vitamin C. When deficient in this vitamin the immune system is impaired and more susceptible to infection. Research indicates that 500mg will support good immune function and help with wound healing. It is a great supplement for people whose immune systems are weakened due to stress (constant worrying, excess alcohol, smoking, or exposure to pollutants). While it won’t stop you from catching a cold, it may lessen the severity of the cold.
  • Healthy blood levels of Vitamin D (1000IU to 4000IU) are linked to increased immunity. Research shows that a Vitamin D deficiency can increase susceptibility to infections, especially those of the upper respiratory tract. Vitamin D is made in the body by exposure to the sun, hence in winter it can be difficult to get the fifteen minutes of sun exposure per day required to keep healthy Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is found in foods such as egg yolks, liver, and fatty fish. 
  • Zinc supports the growth and normal function of immune cells. There is evidence that zinc lozenges used within 24 hours of the start of a cold can shorten the length of a cold. Consider zinc supplementation if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or elderly.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information only. It is not intended as medical or health advice and should not be relied on as a substitute for consultation with a qualified healthcare professional who understands your individual medical needs.

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