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Winter is coming: How to stay happy and healthy

It's easy to enjoy the summer when living in Europe. Warm days and late sunsets allow plenty of time to socialise, exercise and enjoy yourself. The colder months, however, are a slightly different proposition.

Winter is coming: How to stay happy and healthy
A jog a day: Regular walking or jogging not only increases fitness, but reduces your chances of suffering from seasonal illnesses. Photo: Getty Images

Autumn and winter mean shorter days, colder nights and often a range of health challenges. Not only are seasonal colds and flu circulating, but low temperatures and light levels make it more difficult to keep in shape, and moods dip. 

Together with international health insurance broker ASN, we identify proven ways in which you can stay fit, healthy and happy as the year draws to a close. 

Cold, coughs and flus – oh my! 

Avoiding the cold and flus that come with the cold weather can be difficult, but there are some things that you can do to minimise the risk, that go beyond washing your hands or wearing a mask. 

Clinical studies across the globe have demonstrated that regularly taking vitamin C, echinacea and (most importantly) zinc may boost the immune system’s defences, and in some cases prevent illness. 

For those with health issues such as hypertension, pre-existing respiratory or heart disease, seasonal viruses can be devastating. In these cases, doctors recommend a yearly flu vaccine. These protect against the yearly dominant strains and can vastly reduce the severity of illness, should you get sick. 

As Giovanni Bretti from ASN Customer Care tells us, “The good thing about international health insurance is that you can include or exclude benefits such as vaccinations and specialised respiratory care, tailored to your needs.”

Avoid worry and gloom this winter – get a quote on your international health insurance from ASN

Ski, skate, cycle or spin

Of course, we know that you can minimise your odds of getting seriously ill by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a good level of fitness – but how do you keep that up when it’s dark and cold outside? 

Majuran Panchalingam, an International Insurance Consultant from ASN shares some tips: “When it starts to get cold outside, I mainly train indoors. Furthermore, I make everything ready the evening before. Skipping training becomes more difficult when I have already packed my training things.”

Also, something as simple as installing a free pedometer on your smartphone can help. Studies demonstrated it can increase average daily physical exercise by around 20 percent.

For those with a competitive streak, depending on which app you choose, you can receive detailed analysis on your walks or runs, including distance, speed and elevation.

An increasing number of apps also allow you to virtually ‘walk’ a set distance, such as the length of the Great Wall of China. Some even award a real medal or certificate upon completion. 

Regular exercise can also help prevent injury to muscles and joints but should you get hurt in an accident, such as slipping on an icy pavement, it’s important to seek medical assistance and specialised help as soon as you can. Some health insurance policies, like those arranged by ASN, will even give you free access to physiotherapists and other physical specialists. 

By dealing with problems as they occur, you can not only avoid more invasive treatment and possible mobility issues but also save on healthcare costs. Who doesn’t want that? 

ASN gives you peace of mind in the colder months by finding you the best offers on international health insurance 

Autumn splendour: Taking advantage of cool, dry weather to get outside and socialise with friends is an important part of staying healthy. Photo: Getty Images

Get out of the gloom 

The colder months don’t just impact physical health – they can have a remarkable effect on mental health as well. 

This is for a complex range of reasons. Some scientists have linked shorter days and longer nights to decreased serotonin production in the brain, while others have suggested it provokes changes in our circadian rhythms – our routines of wakefulness and sleep. Rather than be social and get out, we just want to sleep. 

What has been shown to work are two things: getting outside during the daylight hours, and the regular use of a sun lamp, available in many shops. Both can have the effect of fooling the brain into proceeding as normal, and avoiding a low mood. 

Internationals are especially susceptible to poorer mental health in the colder months, as they might find themselves isolated while those around them are celebrating the holiday season. It’s important to stay connected and socialise when possible. Many forums and websites for internationals regularly hold events to facilitate social interaction and this can be a great way to stay connected and make new friends.

If you do find yourself experiencing a persistent low mood, speaking to someone about the challenges you’re facing and receiving the proper support can help. 

Mental health therapies are usually covered in standard international health insurance plans. If you are working with a broker, such as ASN, they will do their best to support customers in their preferred language to find out what is covered and what kind of possibilities there are to find peace of mind again.

The best investment in your health

One of the best things an international living abroad can do to safeguard their health throughout the year, and especially in the darker months, is to consider an international health insurance policy. 

Such policies, like those brokered by ASN, give 24-7 access to a global network of doctors, specialists and other healthcare professionals who can provide the personal care you need, when you need it. Not only that, but if you need to be transported to your home country for specialised care, this may be covered by an international health insurance policy. 

These policies often also include coverage for preventative care, to help you avoid illness and mitigate conditions before they become chronic. 

Just as consistent exercise, taking advantage of social activities, and getting yearly flu shots are investments in your health through autumn and winter, an international health insurance policy can ensure you can make the most of your life abroad. 

Take comprehensive control of your health this winter with a quote on international health insurance through ASN  

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HEALTH

How to get an influenza vaccine in Denmark

Target groups for an influenza vaccine for the 2022 season, including children, can obtain free vaccination across Denmark.

How to get an influenza vaccine in Denmark

Starting next week, vaccination centres will be available to give influenza vaccines to children between the ages of two and six.

The offer is expected to make vaccinations easier on parents, since ‘flu shots were previously only available through a limited number of general practitioners — meaning parents often had to call several doctors before making an appointment. 

To date, less than ten percent of eligible kids have been vaccinated for the flu since it became available October 1st, far below the Danish Health Authority target of 75 percent, according to broadcaster DR

Children between the ages of two and six years have been eligible for a vaccination against influenza since October 1st.

The Danish Health Authority says it is offering the vaccination to children because they can easily pass the infection on when they have influenza. As such, vaccinating them can prevent spread to vulnerable people including the elderly.

Because 2020 and 2021 saw low influenza spread due to Covid-19 restrictions, lower natural immunity has built up in the community. The Danish Health Authority is therefore “concerned we will experience a tough influenza season in which we will see many people infected with influenza,” it said in a letter sent to parents of children eligible for vaccination.

“That’s why it is important that we prevent as much illness as we can,” it said.

How are children vaccinated?

The influenza vaccine given to children aged 2-6 is in the form of a nasal spray (not an injection).

It is given in two separate doses four weeks apart, unless the child was vaccinated last year, in which case only one dose is needed.

Children can access the vaccination at their GP’s clinic (they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian). Some clinics offer walk-in vaccination, while appointments must be made at others. Contact your GP for more information.

From October 14th, children can also get the ‘flu vaccine at vaccination centres (the centres where adults are also vaccinated against influenza and Covid-19). An appointment should not be necessary, but check the information provided by the individual centre.

You can find the vaccination centre closest to you via this map on the Danish Health Authority website (click the green “Vaccinationscentre” filter and the light blue “Influenzavaccination af børn (2-6 år)” filters). 

You can also call a dedicated helpline in your local health authority Region to receive information about options near you. The relevant phone numbers are listed here.

The Health Authority has also issued a letter in English on influenza vaccination for children. The letter is a replication of the circular sent to parents. It can be found here.

How do adults get the influenza vaccine?

The free influenza vaccine is offered to adults in a number of specified groups. These are, broadly, people over 65 years old, pregnant women in their second or third trimester, and people with certain chronic illnesses and other health indications.

Health sector staff and household close contacts to children in high-risk groups can also be given the free vaccine.

An exhaustive list of the chronic illnesses and general health conditions for which the influenza vaccine is recommended can be found on the Danish Health Authority website.

Vaccination can be given at GP clinics, vaccination centres (where Covid-19 vaccines are also given) and some pharmacies. The options available vary locally.

You can use this map (the same map mentioned in the section for children above) to search locally for vaccination options close to you. The map can be filtered to show only vaccination centre, GP clinics, pharmacies or private clinics, and you should click the “Influenzavaccine” button to specify for the ‘flu jab.

If you have been offered an influenza vaccine based on your age, you can book an appointment at a vaccination centre via the vacciner.dk website. You’ll need your MitID or NemID digital ID. If you need help with this, you can call a Regional helpline. The relevant phone numbers are listed here.

If you have been offered the vaccine due to health or work reasons, you can follow a similar procedure. You will be asked to sign a declaration before booking an appointment.

If you are unsure about being vaccinated or whether you fall into the target group, the Health Authority recommends discussing the options with your doctor.

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