Five ways to dodge a cold
1. Switch C for D
Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common
Cold Centre at Cardiff University, says, “Vitamin D is formed in sunshine and is important for the working of our immune response but many of us are in short supply in the winter.” Deficiency increases your risk of catching colds and flu by about a third. Try Healthspan Super Strength Vitamin D3 (£10.95 for 240 tablets, healthspan.co.uk).
2. Block that virus
Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray (£6.49, Boots)
can stop the cold virus taking hold, says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. “The gel traps it at the back of the nose, de-activates the bugs and flushes them out. Use it in the first 24 to 36 hours, before your cold has fully developed.
Washing your hands regularly with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds is the best way to prevent picking up a cold virus. Drying with a paper towel is better than a hand dryer and a hand sanitiser is only reliable if it contains 60 to 80 per cent alcohol.
5. Wear a scarf…
…And pull it up over your face to filter bugs and keep warm. “Cold air slows down the flow of mucus that traps viruses and can also reduce the white cells that fight the infection,” says Professor Eccles.
Five ways to treat a cold
1. Take paracetamol, not ibuprofen
Studies show paracetamol can work better on cold symptoms than ibuprofen, according to trials at the University of Southampton. The study’s author, Professor Paul Little, believes ibuprofen dampens the inflammatory reaction the body actually needs to fight the cold virus.
2. Breathe in steam
Put your head over a bowl filled with steaming water and drape a clean towel over your head to keep in the steam. Keep your eyes closed and don’t let your face get too close to the water.
Adding a few drops of menthol or eucalyptus oil to the water can help relieve congestion and a stuffy, blocked nose.
3. Consider herbs
In a study by the Common Cold Centre, echinacea reduces the number of colds and shortens their duration by 26 per cent, reducing the need for painkillers. Try A.Vogel’s Echinoforce Echinacea drops or tablets (from £3.95, Boots).
“Research has shown that the South African herb pelargonium sidoides can reduce the duration of coughs and colds when taken at the first sign of symptoms,” says Dr Dick Middleton, pharmacist and chairman of the British Herbal Medicine Association. Try Kaloba Pelargonium (£9.18 for 30 tablets, Boots).
4. See your pharmacist…
…Not your GP, advises Dr Rob Hicks, GP and spokesperson for Treat Yourself Better With Pharmacist Advice (treatyourselfbetter.co.uk). “Millions head to their doctor with colds and flu every year because they want antibiotics, which are ineffective against most winter ailments.”
5. Sooth your throat
“All lozenges will lubricate and soothe but Strefen Lozenges (£3.79 for 16 lozenges, Boots) contain flurbiprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) that actually treats a sore throat as well as soothes it,” explains Sunil K Kochhar, consultant pharmacist for dearpharmacist.info.
Five ways to eat and drinkyourself better
1. Hot drinks
While any hot drinks will help soothe inflammation, honey and lemon is a popular combination because the citrus taste boosts wellbeing, the honey coats the throat and relieves irritation and natural sugars pep you up.
Also, Professor Eccles found that people who drank blackcurrant cordial made with hot water experienced a relief in cold symptoms within 15 minutes. Tip: Avoid “medicinal” alcohol, which suppresses the immune system.
2. Fresh fruit and vegetables
Boost your immunity by increasing your intake of seasonal produce in a rainbow of colours and varieties for the maximum amount of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Tip: Choose dark- green and darker-coloured vegetables for the highest antioxidants, advises Mary-Lou Harris, senior nutritionist of New You Boot Camp (newyoubootcamp.com).
3. Onions and garlic
“Garlic has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Also effective are leeks and onions – particularly the red variety because they contain the powerful antioxidant quercetin,” explains Mary-Lou.
Tip: Crush or finely slice garlic 10 minutes before adding to dishes to activate immune-boosting enzymes.
4. Chicken soup
Research reported in the American Journal Of Therapeutics found that a compound called carnosine – present in chicken soup – could help the immune system fight off the flu virus in its early stages. And as an extra bonus, warm, steamy soup helps to clear congestion. Tip: Canned soups appear to be just as efficient as home-made.
The spices in hot curries make your eyes and nose run, creating extra mucus to trap the virus and clearing the airways at the same time, says Professor Eccles.
Tip: The hotter, the better!
A hot drink or a bath?
“Definitely a hot bath,” says Mike Tipton, professor of human physiology at the University of Plymouth. “Your body is made up of 66 per cent water at a temperature of 37°C, so one cup of hot fluid won’t make any difference. Immersing your body in a hot bath, however, can warm up your core body temperature by 1°C in just 20 minutes.”
Feathers or synthetic quilt?
Duck, goose feathers and down are naturally warmer than synthetics but, from a thermal point of view, it all comes down to the tog value of the duvet, regardless of the filling.
Gloves or mittens?
“In low temperatures, mittens are better,” says Mike. When the body is cold, it switches off the blood flow – and therefore heat – to extremities like the fingers, toes and nose to protect the vital organs. To make matters worse, our fingers and thumbs are like 10 cylinders with a large surface area from which heat can escape.
Mittens decrease the surface area from which heat can escape to two digits instead of 10.
Fleece or wool?
“The crucial measure is the insulation rather than the material,” says Mike. And wind-proofing is another factor. Fleeces and wool provide insulation but they’re not wind-proof, while modern synthetic materials offer insulation and wind-proofing.
Exercise or alcohol?
“Alcohol is a vasodilator so it increases blood flow to the skin making you feel warmer – while your body is actually losing heat,” explains Mike. Exercise is a far better way of cranking up your internal thermometer because it generates heat.
How do we catch a cold?
There are two ways you can catch a cold. You can inhale it – the average sneeze sends 100,000 virus-containing droplets into the air – or literally pick it up with your hands.
The cold virus is so small that one million would fit on a £1 coin and every one is able to survive outside the body for up to 48 hours on doorknobs, cashpoint buttons or the communal pen at the bank. Once on your fingers you then rub your eye or nose, which allows germs into the respiratory system. It’s estimated that one sneeze in a crowded area could infect up to 150 people in as little as five minutes.