What is the best defense against disease?

Fighting disease in the body

Essentially, the best way to not get sick is to not get infected in the first place. Your immune system can be operating optimally but if an infection is bad enough, you will get sick. You won't, however, get sick if you take a few common sense precautions when you’re out and about.

Respiratory viruses – like the virus that causes COVID-19 – generally spread in 2 different ways:

  • By breathing in particles from a sneeze or a cough, which is why it helps to keep a 1.5 m distance to other people.
  • By touching a surface that someone who are infected have touched, and then you touch your own face.

Want to learn more? Check out our guide to how diet and exercise can balance the immune system.

1. Wash your hands

If you're just going to do one thing to avoid getting sick – whether that is from colds or flu or the current coronavirus epidemic – washing your hands frequently is your best bet. That means washing your hands:

  • As soon as you get home
  • When going into the office or workplace
  • Before, during and after you handle food
  • Before eating
  • After going to the bathroom (obviously)
  • After sneezing or coughing into your hands
  • Before and after visiting a supermarket or other crowded area
  • After handling animals or animal waste

2. Don't touch your face

This is hard! One study found that we touch our face on average 23 times per hour. Even in the womb, babies touch their face, so this is behaviour that is completely natural to us. We do it for many reasons but perhaps the most important one is that it just feels nice.

Touching your face is how virus and bacteria travel from your hands to your nose, mouth or eyes, where they thrive. That is why touching your face – especially when you're out and about – is a big no-no if you want to avoid getting sick.

3. Stay home when sick

Ever heard someone say, 'I've never missed a day of work due to illness'? Either they've never been ill or they've been spreading germs all over their co-workers, and the second option is more likely than the first.

Staying home when feeling unwell isn't just about stopping the spread of disease, it's also about allowing yourself to rest and recover properly. You also won't be able to work as efficiently if you're sick – so stay home if you're coming down with something.

4. Clean often-used surfaces regularly

Whether at home or at work, it's a good idea to do a daily clean of surfaces that are often in use. All you need is a quick spray-and-wipe of tables, benches, railings and other surfaces that are often being touched.

5. No more handshakes or hugs

For now, it's probably best to not shake hands or hug when you meet people.

6. Take care of your overall health

Finally, the better your overall health, the better your immune system is able to fend off disease. By managing your weight and eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, you'll make sure your immune system is working at its very best. If you are eating properly you shouldn't feel the need to take additional dietary supplements.

Get our latest blog delivered to your inbox

I agree to receive emails from the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet (we respect your privacy)

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.