A doctor is warning of a "concerning" syndrome that could affect Aussies over the Christmas period and through the summer months, where people may find themselves falling sick after spending much of the year in a pandemic 'bubble'.
Dr Vincent Candrawinata, a clinical nutritionist, food scientist, antioxidant researcher and founder of Renovatio, believes many Aussies will get sick this summer with illnesses that usually circulate in winter.
"Many people die from the flu. Sadly, because of Covid we seem to have forgotten this," he said.
Dr Vincent said the condition, that he's called "Winsum syndrome", means people could contract things such as colds, chest infections and flu in the warmer months.
"To put it plainly, our immune system is not summer fit," Dr Vincent said, saying immune systems have been "lulled" into a false sense of security as people have spent more time indoors.
Why Aussies might be at risk
Dr Vincent said this is due to lockdowns, restrictions and social distancing the Covid-19 pandemic brought about, in addition to people avoiding public spaces, wearing masks and sanitising.
"Which are all good and important, however as a result, the rate of people getting sick from viruses and germs that can be picked up when mingling with other people has dropped significantly," he said.
"Not only that, the duration of the sickness tends to be longer too. Our immune systems have lost some of their ability to fight and we are not as galvanised as we used to be."
Dr Vincent said because of this, people who are vulnerable may become "quite ill", if, in the lead up to summer, they forgo taking preventative action to ensure their health and support their immune system.
"When your immune system is unfit, it needs some training to get fit," he explained.
"While the flu this year has been at a record low, it can be a bad thing for our immune system because it means that we have had a few seasons, without the natural boost to our immunity that seasonal flu provides.
"There are risks that we will be more susceptible to the virus and other sicknesses in the future."
In addition to social changes due to the pandemic, there's a chance people have changed up their lifestyle — indulging in less healthy food and exercising less.
"Those little steps to and from the cars, to the office, going out to lunch, from and to the train station, during lockdown we immediately lost those steps," Dr Vincent said.
"On average people lost two-thirds of their daily step count during lockdown.
"A lot of us have been overindulging in alcohol as well."
How to support your immune system
To ensure a healthy immune system for the festive season, Dr Vincent advises people to focus on eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and adding more supplements that support the immune system and reduce inflammation.
"Vitamins and activated phenolics are ideal," he said.
He also suggests upping your step count and increasing physical activity, saying outdoor activities can help improve the respiratory system.
"While the festive season usually involves drinking more alcohol, aim to keep consumption as low as possible as it damages your immune system," Dr Vincent said.
"Increase water consumption and try and reduce or even eliminate fried foods, processed meats and sugary items from your diet."
Improving your sleep can also help your body repair and restore itself.
It may seem obvious, but where possible make a conscious effort to avoid people who are sick.
"While this can be difficult, if you need to wear a mask while in certain environments, do it," Dr Vincent added.
He also suggests to keep sanitising and as soon as you start to feel unwell, take additional steps to ensure your body is in a position to best fight the illness.
Of course, if you do fall ill, speak to your GP.
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