How to survive the flu season as an expat

Sick Woman. Flu. Woman Caught Cold. Sneezing into Tissue

Every year winter is the season for sudden flu outbreaks, luckily there are ways to prevent getting sick!

Every year winter is the season for sudden flu outbreaks; the question of when you experience the full
blast all depends on where you are living.

For example, in the United States flu season peaks between December and February, and can last until May. This is the same for Europe. In Australia on the other hand, May to October is considered flu season, and the peak is in August.

The flu comes with a number of unpleasant symptoms, which can cause minor to serious health issues. Every year millions of people around the world have to deal with this illness, but expats can sometimes be more vulnerable because they have to get used to a new climate and hygiene standards. Here are some tips for expats to survive the flu this season.

Wash your hands (a lot)

This may sound like the oldest trick in the book, but health experts keep saying that this is the simplest way to avoid getting sick. Water and soap are your best friends if you want to get rid of viruses on your skin; 20 seconds, or more, of scrubbing your hands, fingers and nails is enough. The temperature of the water does not matter. If water and soap are not an option, buy some hand sanitizer, this will kill flu viruses as well. Wherever you live or whatever work you do, if you meet other people regularly, you should wash your hands as regularly as possible.

Watch what you eat

An overall healthy and balanced diet helps to boost your immune system. A spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, Christine Gerbstadt, says that good nutrition will decrease your risk of getting infected. Make sure to include all food groups in your diet. If you are not sure what kinds of vegetables or fruits to choose, go for the ones that contain a lot of antioxidants (like vitamin E, C, A and zinc, beta carotene, and selenium). These help the cells in your immune system to work optimally. Adding some lean protein is also a good idea, considering that your immune molecules are made out of protein.

Some experts vouch for a select group of foods that are supposed to be immune-boosting. Foods like garlic, sweet potatoes, red peppers and broccoli belong to this group – but there are two more ´super foods´ to fight the flu:


Why not try changing your morning routine: eat yoghurt for breakfast! This dairy product contains live cultures that will trigger a quicker response of the immune system to any viruses in your body.

The Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism published a study which suggests that eating yogurt will also speed up your recovery time. Opting for a plain, organic and unsweetened yogurt will be the best to prevent the flu. You will be able to find this in the dairy section of any local grocery store. If you want to know more about the health benefits of yogurt, check out this website.


If you are not a big fan of yogurt, opt for mushrooms instead. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition published research that shows that mushrooms have the power to boost your immune system. The gave a test group a cooked shiitake everyday for a month, which reduced inflammation and increased T cell numbers.

So, if you are an expat in a country where flu season is an annual thing, following these tips might just let you go through winter without getting sick!

Image: [Anna Subbotina]