Most of us will have at least one cold every year, but there are ways to cut your risk of colds, coughs and sneezes. We’ve gathered the latest research and expert advice to help protect you from the common cold – and clear it quickly if you do succumb.
To prevent a cold occurring in the first place…
The best way to deal with the common cold is to help your body prevent it in the first place. Boosting your immune system and keeping it fighting fit will definitely reduce the number and frequency of colds you catch. Here’s our step-by-step guide for preventing a cold.
Step 1 – Wash your hands
Most colds are passed on when you touch the hand of an infected person, or a surface contaminated with the cold virus, and then touch your eyes or nose, transmitting the infection to yourself. So if you wash your hands regularly through the day, you cut your risk of infecting yourself.
Step 2 – Humidity for immunity
Normally, tiny hairs in your lungs waft germs and mucus into your throat, where you clear them by swallowing. But very cold air slows this movement, giving viruses longer to take hold in your lungs and cause an infection. Investing in a humidifier could help – US researchers found keeping humidity levels between 40 and 60 per cent reduced the amount of time flu viruses survive in the air, as well as keeping your respiratory system warm and moist.
Step 3 – Take immunity superboosters
The herb Echinacea can help reduce the number of colds you get if you take it throughout the cold season for at least 10 days. And, if you do pick up a bug, it may help reduce its severity. Pelargonium, another immune-boosting herb, works in a similar way.
Step 4 – Get your zzzs
Getting seven or eight hours’ sleep a night helps maintain your immune system and prevent you catching a cold. But it’s not just going to bed on time that counts; you also need good quality kip. If you’re always waking up in the early hours, it’s time to adopt some good sleep habits to help beat insomnia.
Handpicked article: 10 tips for a good night’s sleep
Step 5 – Get moving
Staying active can help protect you from cold bugs. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, such as brisk walking, to keep your immune system ticking over.
When a cold does occur, treat it by…
Even the healthiest person on the planet is certain to develop a cold at some point. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with it though. There’s plenty you can do to relieve the symptoms and speed up recovery when a cold does hit. Follow the steps below.
Step 6 – Be quick!
Vitamin C is an old favourite for tackling winter bugs, as it helps your immune system work properly. But if you’re looking to make the most of any cold-busting benefits, you need to be quick off the mark. Taking a supplement on the first day of symptoms is the most likely way to reduce the length of your cold, according to a review of studies.
Step 7 – The sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D could trigger your body’s T-cells, which fight infections. Without sufficient vitamin D, these cells lie dormant and aren’t able to destroy the bugs. Unfortunately, many of us in the UK are deficient in vitamin D, particularly in the winter months, but you can keep your levels topped up with a supplement.
Step 8 – Use flower power
Not just for prettying up your patio, the geranium-like plant Pelargonium is a herbal medicine traditionally used when colds, coughs, runny or blocked noses, and sore throats occur
Step 9 – Zinc essentials
Zinc is an essential mineral, which can help you get over a cold more quickly by helping to keep your immune system functioning. Try boosting your intake by eating zinc-rich foods like cashew nuts, almonds, chickpeas, kidney beans, flax seeds, pumpkins seeds, garlic, spinach, mushrooms and dark chocolate. Zinc is also found in meat and fish. If these foods aren’t part of your normal diet, then you may benefit from taking a zinc supplement.
Step 10 – Sweeten up
Consider honey next time you’ve got an annoying cough. It is recommended above over-the-counter remedies for children, with the latest thinking that a honey-and-lemon drink can be just as useful as cough medicines. (Important note: children under 1 years old should not be given honey).
Try this easy cold-busting juice recipe:
For 3-4 drinks you will need:
- Coconut water (or sparking water)
- Manuka honey
- Four oranges, peel removed
- Three apples
- 2 inches of fresh ginger
- A handful of fresh Turmeric
- A juicer
- Juice the turmeric, ginger, apples and oranges in the order listed above (you need to juice the turmeric first as it is quite dry, so you need the subsequent fruit juices to help clear it from the blades and mix it into the juice).
- Add 1 teaspoon of Manuka honey to a tall glass. Half fill the glass with the juice and stir until the honey is dissolved. Then top up with either coconut water or sparkling water.
- Drink straight away, or store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.
Source: Jessica Bride for Real Health Manuka Honey
Step 11 – Drink to it
Turns out the old advice is the best: drinking plenty of fluids is a great way to combat cough and cold symptoms. A blocked nose and catarrh can make you feel rough, but lots of water or herbal tea will help to thin out your mucous, meaning you won’t feel so bunged up.