Avoiding the Common Cold this Winter

Whilst Rudolph looks great with a shiny red nose at Christmas, the same can’t be said for the rest of us. Spending the festive period with a runny nose, a scratchy sore throat and a hacking cough can really ruin the holiday season. The common cold at Christmas is the ultimate unwanted gift (alongside the pair of hand-knitted socks that Great Aunt Beryl bought you).

Unfortunately, there is no magic remedy that will cure your cold which is often caused by a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract. Most colds are not serious, but when you are feeling shivery or have a congested nose and a headache it can seem like an eternity waiting for the virus to run its course.

It’s not all bad news though. There are many steps you can take to try and prevent a cold taking hold during the winter months. Here’s our tips designed to help you stay healthy during the cold weather.

Wash your hands regularly

Touching contaminated surfaces such as the TV remote or a door handle and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose is the most common way of transmitting the cold virus.  Germs can last for up to twenty-four hours on some surfaces so the best defence against the bugs is to regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water during the day.  The virus can also be spread by skin contact such as a handshake, so we advise carrying a small bottle of hand sanitiser in your bag to clean your hands when you are out and about.

De-bug your mobile phone

Invest in a handy pack of alcohol-based anti-bacterial wipes and give your phone a regular rub down.  According to the app Locket, who monitored 150,000 of their users, the average person checks their phone 110 times in a single day. That’s a lot of potential bugs that could be lurking on your screen.  Amazon offer a range of anti-bacterial phone wipes to purchase online. It could prove a worthwhile investment in your battle against the bugs.

Avoid the ‘medicinal whisky’

We don’t want to come across as killjoys here, but we’ve got some bad news. Drinking a traditional ‘hot toddie’ will not shorten the duration of a cold. In fact, in some cases it can even prolong the symptoms as alcohol suppresses your immune system, which could leave you prone to more infections.

As an alternative to whisky, try peppermint tea instead.  The menthol in the drink helps to open your airways and relieve catarrh. One of our favourites is Whittards loose peppermint tea, which you can purchase online so you don’t even have to leave the house if you are feeling under the weather.

Fluids are especially important when you have a cold or flu-like symptoms. Drinking water eases your sore throat, can help to cut through congestion and keeps you hydrated, unlike an alcoholic drink which can make you more dehydrated.

Catch some Zzzzs…

There is nothing better than a nap when you’re unwell but trying to get off to sleep with a hacking cough or a persistently runny nose isn’t always easy.  If your cold symptoms are stopping you from snoozing, then try propping your upper body with some extra pillows. By keeping your head at a higher level than the rest of your body, gravity becomes your friend as it helps to prevent postnasal drip which can trigger your cough.

If you share a bedroom, you could also try moving to the spare room. Not only will your partner thank you for keeping your germs away from them, but you can blow your nose and sneeze without waking them up.

Make friends with your pharmacist

Cold viruses are typically harmless in the long term and unless you are displaying unusual symptoms or have been unwell for over three weeks, you won’t benefit from a trip to the doctors. Instead, talk to your local pharmacist and ask them to recommend an over-the-counter medicine to relieve your symptoms.

Protect your family

If your family member has a cold you can minimise the risk of catching it buy setting aside a glass and towel for them to use.  It’s wise to be careful and not share objects which could carry germs to prevent the virus spreading throughout the household.

Combat your cold with Vitamin C

Vitamin C cannot reduce your risk of catching a cold, but it can help to shorten the duration of the virus and reduce the severity of the symptoms.  Most supermarkets and chemists stock Vitamin C supplements.  Blackcurrants, kiwis and oranges are also rich in Vitamin C, so stock up on these tasty fruits to fight your flu-like symptoms

Scientists are still trying to find a way to fight off the common cold and to date there is no guaranteed way to avoid the coughs and congestion that catch us unawares throughout the Winter months, but by following these tips you can minimise the effects of the virus so that it does not impact on your enjoyment of the New Year.

Please be aware that you should seek GP advice if:

  • your symptoms do not improve after 3 weeks
  • you’re finding it hard to breathe or develop chest pain
  • your symptoms get suddenly worse
  • your temperature is very high or you feel hot and shivery
  • you’re concerned about your child’s symptoms
  • you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes, or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, because you’re having chemotherapy