Five Tips To Avoid Colds and Flu
This is the time of year when more of us are at greater risk of going down with a stinking cold or flu. Not only do colds and flu make you feel sorry for yourself, and less like joining in with social activities, they can really challenge your immune system, making it hard to shake off other minor ailments and leaving you feeling below par even after the actual cold or flu virus itself has died down.
The good news about colds is that you can’t catch the same cold virus twice. The bad news is that there are an estimated 200 or more types of cold and influenza (flu) virus, so there will always be one that you haven’t had before doing the rounds.
To avoid colds and flu, you need to take a two-pronged approach: firstly you need to minimise your exposure to cold viruses and secondly, look after yourself so that your body can fight viruses effectively and minimise the duration of a cold or flu.
With this in mind, here are my five top tips on how to avoid catching one of those horrid viruses:
- Wash your hands more often. Cold and flu viruses are extremely transferrable, so it is well worth taking an extra minute or two to wash your hands more often. Try to be more thorough when you wash, soaping between fingers and not forgetting the backs of hands and wrists as well as palms. If you are in germ-rich environments such as travelling by train or bus, working with children or in an open plan office with shared computer keyboards or phones, keep a little bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag and use it liberally. It is also worth making a real effort not to touch your mouth or face.
- Keep warm. Whilst colds and chills are completely different things, there is growing research that suggests that keeping warm does help you to fight the cold virus and, if you do catch one, to help your body combat it and fight it off more quickly. The Common Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff, recommends keeping your nose covered if you have a cold or are in an environment where you will be more exposed to cold and flu viruses as they say that the virus travels better in cold air than warmer air.
- Take a traditional herbal remedy. HRI Cold & Flu Echinacea is a traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms of the common cold and flu-type infections based on traditional use. In 2012, an article in the Daily Telegraph reported that research by Cardiff University Common Cold Centre showed that “Tests on 750 patients found that taking three daily doses of the common remedy for four months reduced the number of colds and duration of the illness by an average of 26 per cent. The treatment also cut the number of recurrent colds suffered by people with weak immune systems or a history of catching several bouts each year by 60 per cent”.
- Look after yourself. Many of us feel that we have to ‘soldier on’ through a cold – but just end up making ourselves feel more unwell over the long term. If you can, try to get some extra sleep at the very first sign of a cold, and make sure you eat plenty of wholesome food – particularly leafy green vegetables which are rich in the all-important vitamin D that helps to fight infection. However, don’t let extra rest mean that you give up regular exercise: small amounts of regular exercise such as brisk walking or cycling (wrapped up warmly, of course!) will also help to keep your lymphatic system working effectively and help your body to fight off the virus more quickly.
- Gargle. I gargle with boiled water (allowed to cool to a comfortable temperature) with a few grains of salt in it if I suspect I may be getting a cold. In Japan, where they tend to take virus avoidance very seriously, a study showed that gargling with water three times a day could reduce your likelihood of catching a cold by around a third. It is thought that this practice helps to clear mucus and literally wash out viruses from soft tissue in the mouth and throat.
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