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.
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.
Fight colds with vitamin C
A review of studies found taking a high dose of vitamin C could help shorten a cold if you take it at the first sign of symptoms. It could also cut your risk of catching the common cold in the first place, if the weather’s very cold or you’re working hard physically.
Boost 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.
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.
Get your zzzs to fight off colds
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 beat insomnia by tonight.
Dehydration can slow mucus production, which makes it harder to clear viruses. So sip on plenty of water throughout the day, or try a soothing herbal tea.
Beat colds with 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.
Staying active can help protect you from cold bugs. Aim for 30 minutes daily of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, to keep your immune system ticking over.
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This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.