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How to avoid colds and flu

Regardless of how healthy you are, anyone can succumb to colds and the flu, especially as the winter months close in.

The nature of life means we are bound to come into contact with germs at some point, whether at work, in public places or from children. There are, however, plenty of ways in which you can try and keep colds and flu at bay.

To start, it’s important to understand that cold and flu are not the same thing. The two are often conflated, but they are not the same. A cold is definitely the milder of the two.

Cold symptoms:

  • A runny and or blocked nose

  • A sore throat

  • Coughing

  • Plenty of sneezing

  • Potentially also headaches and earaches

  • In rare cases, a mild fever

Flu, on the other hand, can be a lot more dangerous.

Flu symptoms:

  • Sweating

  • Painful or achy muscles

  • Exhaustion

  • Feeling faint

  • A dry chesty cough

  • Sudden fever or around 38 - 40C

This is why it is so important to look after yourself and support your immune system. Try some of these 5 suggestions to keep yourself well.

1. Healthy food and snacks

By eating the right things, you’re ensuring your body is receiving all the vitamins and nutrients it needs to stay healthy. It’s important to consume foods that are rich in:

  • Vitamin C: An important vitamin and anti-oxidant, your body uses Vitamin C to stay strong and healthy. It can be found in oranges (including orange juice), red and green peppers, kiwis, and strawberries.

  • Vitamin E: Again, this vitamin helps to maintain a healthy immune system. You can find it in spinach, nuts, sunflower seeds, avocados and fish.

  • Zinc: A trace element that helps our bodies to produce new enzymes, as well as increase immune health. Zinc can be found in meat, spinach, cashew nuts and dairy foods

If you do fall ill with cold or flu, hot water and honey is a common remedy for the accompanying cough and sore throat. It's a home remedy that is now endorsed by medical professionals. One study found that honey was as effective as cough medicine in reducing night time coughing. It is important to keep in mind that, for all its benefits, honey can raise your blood sugar levels. In moderation, however, it can be an effective home remedy.

2. Exercise to strengthen your immune system

We all know exercise helps increase and improve our circulation.  What you might not know is that this increased blood flow can actually strengthen our heart and immune system. This in turn can improve our ability to fight infections. If you want to stay motivated to exercise, why not try something new? Giving one of these 9 fitness trends a try can help to revitalise any fitness routine.

3. Use a hand sanitiser to fight germs

Hand sanitisers are a great way to help you avoid germs of colds and flu.  Most of us know that bannisters, handles and public toilet flushers are all surfaces where somebody could have left germs. This is why places like hospitals have hand sanitiser in these areas to prevent the spread of cold or flu bugs.

Did you know, however, that other surfaces may be dirtier than you think? Your mobile phone, for example, could be 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. The Centre for Disease Control found that using the phone when ill can allow germs to collect on your device. These germs can survive on surfaces for up to 24 hours. There are things we can do to prevent the spread of germs. It is recommended that you wipe your phone down with a soft cloth a few times a month and avoid sharing phones as well as using hand sanitiser on yourself.

4. Make time for sleep and relaxation

Getting plenty of rest and enough sleep are things that should be part of everyday life because this helps to keep us healthy. If you get too tired or run-down, then you’re more likely to succumb to illness and can find it harder to shake off.

Have you ever noticed that you find yourself more prone to illness after periods of poor sleep? Learn how to make the most of your sleep with our 5 top sleep tips.

5. Don’t miss out on the flu jab

If you are aged 65 or over, are pregnant or have a medical condition (such as a heart complaint, chest complaint or diabetes) you can request a flu jab through your GP. You can also request a vaccination through a nasal spray for children aged from 2-4 years of age through your GP. Alternatively, people aged 16 or over can now pay for a jab in places like Boots.

Have you discovered a particular method that helps to keep cold and flu viruses at bay?


Top 10 tips to keep colds at bay

NHS Direct Colds and Flu

NHS Direct Flu and the Flu vaccine