by Dr. Ruth Caden, Shoreline Medical –
Coming into the winter months, we get a lot of questions from our patients about what they can do to maximize their health and well-being, and reduce the risks of infection. My answer is always the same – vaccines, vaccines, vaccines.
Of course, we are all eagerly anticipating the arrival of a vaccine for COVID-19. However, there exist now safe and effective vaccinations for a range of serious illnesses, and I encourage all my patients – where appropriate – to get them. Never has it been more important to minimize our exposure to healthcare facilities, reduce the burden on hospitals, and protect our friends and families. Everyone over the age of six months, with rare exception, should have the flu vaccine every year. This is covered by MSP for over 65s and select groups. Over 65s and those in high risk groups should get the pneumonia vaccine (Pneumovax). In addition, there is a second pneumonia vaccine (Prevnar) that people in high risk groups should get. Adults over 50 should consider getting the shingles vaccine. Unfortunately, MSP do not cover the cost of this. Ask your pharmacist or doctor about which vaccines are appropriate for you.
Often, we have patients who turn to natural remedies and “supplements” to ward off illness, but given that these can be costly, and sometimes harmful, it is worth considering the evidence.
In general, vitamin supplementation is not necessary for most adults who eat a balanced and varied diet and get regular sun exposure or drink vitamin D-fortified dairy products. Individual advice on this may vary (particularly for Vitamin D and B12) according to your own personal circumstances.
It has been suggested that Vitamin C, D, zinc, garlic, and/or apple cider vinegar can help reduce your chances of getting a cold or speed up recovery, but there unfortunately is no strong evidence to support this.
Finally – wearing masks, social distancing and washing our hands appropriately will be all the more important as we face into the winter, and we should all redouble our efforts in this regard.