Immune Health

Must-Haves in Your Home Workspace

a person in a white shirt blowing their nose with a tissue whilst diligently writing on a paper with diagrams
Sharing an office space increases the chances of spreading viruses, which is why working from home has become the new norm. We have got five must-haves for your desk to help support you through defending your immune system.

1. Hand sanitisers & disinfectant wipes to keep your desk germ-free

The airborne viruses that cause the cold and flu survive anywhere from hours to days on surfaces like phones, desks, keyboards, and doorknobs. These nasties are picked up and easily introduced into your body when you rub your eyes or touch your nose – without even noticing, most people do this every four minutes, or up to 125 each day! [1]

A 2015 study found that using antibacterial hand sanitisers and wipes reduced the risk of catching a rhinovirus (including the common cold) by up to 85% [2]. Don’t forget to grab the antibacterial kind, though – antimicrobial wipes are far more effective at killing the influenza virus than low-tech alternatives like damp cloths or tissues [3].

Cleaning your hands regularly can stop the spread of infection. A 2006 study found that people who washed their hands multiple times a day had a 16% lower chance of catching a common cold or the flu [4].

The COVID-19 pandemic has made carrying and using hand sanitiser common practice, with a 2020 study showing people using 3.4 times per day [5] to prevent the spread of virus.

2. Herbal support to boost your immune system

Taking herbal medicine before you get sick might be even better than taking it after you develop symptoms. Echinacea may help to support the body's immune system, and a 2012 study found that people who took it for four months over winter experienced fewer colds [6]. Other herbs like Andrographis have been shown to reduce the risk of catching a cold, and to reduce the severity of symptoms if you do end up getting sick [7].

3. Vitamin C to get you back on your feet faster

Vitamin C may prevent the common cold – the research is divided. But what researchers consistently find it that taking vitamin C before you get a cold can reduce the severity of your symptoms when you do get sick [8]. Worth the effort? We think so. Make it easier on yourself by opting for chewable tablets and munch on them throughout the day.

4. Herbal tea and water to keep your immune cells moving

Immune cells travel through your body via fluids – even slight dehydration slow them down, making it harder for them to fight incoming infections*. Drinking a cup of water every hour, and avoid alcohol and caffeine that can dehydrate you further – opt for herbal teas instead.

The only exception to the caffeine rule is green tea – research has found that antioxidant catechins found in green tea could prevent infection* [9]. A study from 2011 found that drinking 1 – 3 cups of green tea per day prevented students from catching the common cold [10].

5. Vaporiser and essential oils to protect your desk

Wouldn't it be nice to stop those airborne pathogens in their tracks before they reach your workspace? Running a vaporiser loaded with essential oils could create a protective cloud around your desk – it'll also increase the air humidity which the influenza virus hates. No way to run a vaporiser where you are? Go analogue and use an essential oil spray every few hours.

It's no secret that eucalyptus and tea tree oils are potent antimicrobials [11], but for something a little more perfumed, go for lemon balm or patchouli – all of these essential oils have been shown to inhibit airborne influenza viruses [12].

Quick tips:

  • Get moving! Regular moderate exercise has been shown to boost the immune system and reduce the risk of catching the common cold [13].
  • Stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet rich with vegetables and legumes. In winter months, soups can be comforting and provide a delicious way to increase your nutrient intake.
  • Getting enough good quality sleep can strengthen your immune system in colder weather. A 2009 study found that sleeping just 10-30 minutes less than an optimal eight hours can significant increase the risk of getting a cold [14]. Read more about how good sleep can keep a cold away.


* Infections refer to the common cold, mild upper respiratory tract infections and illness.

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