Beaconsfield Local  Our Immune system – Stay smiling this winter

your-doctor-wexham-tring-beaconsfield-winter-stay-healthyThis month we ask Your Doctor’s Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa how to protect and boost our immune system as we head towards the colder months.

Q. How can I boost my immune system this winter?

A: Reduced sunlight can disrupt our sleeping cycles, reduce our desire to exercise and can affect our vitamin D intake. Make sure you go out into the natural light every day and ensure you have a good diet packed with healthy fruit, vegetables and fibre, and give a wide berth to unhealthy comfort foods.  The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E and they can be found particularly in purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables. Smoking also affects your immune system so get support to help quit if you are a smoker.

Q. How does a flu vaccination work?

A: Flu vaccines work by producing antibodies to fight off the disease without infecting us with the actual disease. The vaccine can identify the disease if it were to come into contact with our body and will release the antibodies to fight it off. For children, a flu nasal spray is usually issued which contains live but weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. This helps the child build up their immunity to flu, without symptoms. 

Q. Can you catch the flu from a flu vaccine?

A: The vaccine contains inactivated flu viruses, making it near impossible for it to give you the flu. The location of where the injection was given may feel sore and some people may experience a slight temperature and aching muscles for a few days, but it is well worth having the flu vaccine to protect you.

Q. What should I do if I get the flu?

A: If you get the flu, it is important to rest, stay as comfortable as possible, drink plenty of water, take a paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and ease the aches and pains if needed. If you feel as though you need to seek advice, visit your local pharmacist who can provide treatment advice and recommend flu remedies. If your symptoms haven’t improved after a week, call 111 or speak to your GP. 

Q.  Who should get the flu vaccine?

A: You are eligible for the flu vaccine if you are 65 years of age or older, are pregnant, are a carer, or have certain medical conditions such as heart and liver disease or respiratory diseases like asthma. Children are eligible if they are over six months with a long-term health condition, aged between two and three years old, or are in reception or years one to four at school.

It is important to remember you are not just protecting yourself. By getting vaccinated we are preventing the spread of flu and helping stop those around us from becoming ill.

For more details or book an appointment call – 0330 088 2020 or visit website:


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Spotlight on Seasonal Affective Disorder 

Have you heard of SAD? If not, you may have read about (or spoken to) people who say that they get a little depressed, or unhappy, when the long winter-nights start to draw in. It is quite a common complaint and often under-diagnosed. We probably all experience it to some extent, but for an unfortunate few, it can really affect their emotional health.
There are a number of theories why some people suffer more than others and experience it getting worse. Academics often believe it’s related to circulating levels of serotonin and melatonin.
SAD can result in some quite unpleasant and depressive symptoms, and it is important to discuss these with a health-professional, such as your GP. A reassuring consultation can lead to talking-therapies and medical treatments, like antidepressants. There is some evidence that light therapy will help, and a visit to will inform you of many different options. I frequently use LED light masks in my Cosmetic practice, and it is postulated these types of mask, whilst being excellent for skin rejuvenation, can also help with the symptoms of SAD.

Should I get the ‘flu jab?

I have been asked this question – or one like it – on many occasions, and the answer is usually “yes”. However it takes some investigation and personal advice to assess your personal risk.

‘Flu is currently topical in the news. The outbreak in Australia and New Zealand has led to many fatalities, with young children also having been affected. The concern in the recent days has been whether this “horror ‘flu” strain will make its way to these shores. You may well remember the Swine ‘flu scare a few years ago. The NHS responded magnificently, and called in the at-risk groups for a second jab. Subsequently, ‘flu jabs over recent years have all been modified to include the various risky strains. So, whilst this year’s ‘flu jab cannot be absolutely guaranteed to protect us against the Antipodean strain, we can take comfort in the vast amount of research and clinical excellence that goes into producing our yearly injection.

‘Flu can be unpleasant, but if you are otherwise healthy it will usually clear up within a week. However, ‘flu can be more severe for:

• anyone aged 65 and over.

• pregnant women.

• children and adults with an underlying health condition (such as long-term heart or respiratory disease).

• children and adults with weakened immune systems. Anyone in these risk-groups are more likely to develop potentially serious complications, so it’s recommended that they have a ‘flu-vaccine every year, to protect them. The injected ‘flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS annually to:

• Over the age of 18 at risk of ‘flu (including everyone aged 65 and over).

• pregnant women.

• children aged six months to two years at risk of ‘flu.

There is also a nasal-spray available for younger children, and slightly older little ones in at- risk groups. All the information can be found on the NHS website, a great source of help before needing to visit your local surgery.

Now, the next most popular question: “Does the ‘flu jab give you the ‘flu?” Simple answer: “No, it cannot – it is a vaccine containing no live viruses. It might give you a headache, mild fever and muscle ache for a couple of days – but that is all. So, if you are in one of the at-risk groups I recommend that you attend your surgery for your jab. Private ‘flu jabs for those who do not fulfil the criteria are available for about £15.

To ask a question to Dr Nishel Patel please email him on