In the last few months of the academic year when exam classes have left, there's a faint hint of relaxation in the air and the summer holidays are tantalisingly close, why is it that so many teachers start to develop coughs, colds and other equally debilitating ailments at what could be one of the least stressful times of year? The answer lies with immunity. After months of mixing with germ-ridden pupils (and colleagues), your immune army could be suffering from battle fatigue.
Try these immunity-boosting techniques to keep your T-cells and B-cells happy enough to allow you a disease-free summer term:
* Most cell repair takes place when we are asleep, when immune activity is at its strongest. Concentrate on developing good sleep patterns if you're used to burning the midnight oil.
* Increase your intake of anti-oxidants. These are the reinforcements for your immune army. Vitamin A is great at keeping viruses at bay, and vitamin C will help to fight any that do squeeze through. Zinc helps T-cells to mature, and selenium is crucial for the identification of germs. To boost your antioxidant intake, make sure that at least 70 per cent of your daily calorific intake comprises fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
* Avoid coffee, tea, chocolate and high fat and protein diets. These all divert calcium away from its infection-fighting tasks (calcium helps your body to produce fevers which are necessary to help rid your body of infection; immune cells work far better at high temperatures). Ditch your staffroom beverages for rosehip tea. It's rich in vitamin C and bioflavanoids.
* Echinacea, aloe vera, bee pollen, hypericum and garlic can all be useful. Your local health food stockist will identify the best for you.
* The fitter you are, the healthier your cells will be, as oxygen will be able to circulate your body with ease. Exercise will increase your resistance to infection, and allow you faster recovery times should you become ill.
* Pay attention to your emotions. Successive studies have shown strong links between negative feelings and immunity, hence the illness that often follows a major life crisis such as divorce, bereavement or even an Office for Standards in Education inspection. Work at creating balance in your life by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
* Finally, don't strain your immune system, and those of the people around you, by smoking. Enough said!