10 must follow rules for cold and flu prevention
From rest to vitamins and vaccination, what to do when you feel awful
Feeling pretty smug about how you’ve managed to avoid coming down with the same debilitating flu that knocked you for six last year? Reckon you’ve managed to get away with it? It’s possible you may well have done. Congratulations!
How about a hearty high-five and a pat on the back? Yes? OK then…Ooh, I tricked you. Not only do I have a cold, I also sneezed into my hand a few minutes ago and have let the germs just sit there. You’re now infected. Hard luck.
So what do you do?
Wash your hands properly
None of that splash of cold water and a quick wipe on the trousers nonsense. We’re talking about a proper scrubbing and a proper drying. As Health Protection Scotland are at pains to state, “It takes at least fifteen seconds to wash your hands properly – this is about how long it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday to You’ twice through!” If you’re over the age of six you might want to avoid getting caught singing to yourself, but the message still stands.
To start you need enough soap to completely cover your hands and a supply of hot water, then you need to scrub your fingers, palms and nails – both front and back. When it comes to drying it’s preferable to use a paper towel and to make sure that hands are completely moisture free by the time you finish. Got it? Good.
Gobble down some garlic
Known as the ‘stinking rose’, garlic has been prized for its medicinal properties for centuries. It’s thought that a nutrient called allicin acts as a natural decongestant, while the huge amounts of antioxidants in garlic seek and destroy free radicals in the body before they can damage cells and make us susceptible to illness.
It’s Muller time…
Research has shown that the healthy, friendly, good bacteria which live in our intestines and aid digestion are great for preventing cold and flu symptons and also for speeding up recovery. Yoghurt is your best bet if you’re eager to boost your probiotic levels, although if you’re feeling daring you could spoon-feed yourself sour cream.
Sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. Yes, your elbow.
Along with Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and a whole host of other lies and misinformation which is passed from generation to generation, the idea that sneezing into your hand is a good way of preventing the spread of germs is false. That’s not to say you should be exploding your germs all over fellow commuters. Instead, when the urge to sneeze occurs you should bury your face in a tissue, or failing that, your elbow. Spluttering germs onto your hand is a sure-fire way of spreading them, so unless you can guarantee never to touch another solid object again, don’t do it.
Take a Sauna
While extensive research has not been undertaken, it is widely believed that regular sauna users are much less susceptible to colds than those who stay away from steamy, wood-paneled rooms. It’s all down to the inhalation of air above 80 degrees, a temperature too hot for cold and flu viruses to survive. Now, granted, we Brits aren’t exactly a nation blessed with saunas, but if you happen to get the chance it may be worth taking. I mean, we’ve all seen the movies…
Quidco Discover says Relax
Chronic stress can raise cortisol levels which not only weakens the immune system but leaves us more susceptible to cold and flu viruses, as well as all manner of other serious health problems. Yoga and laughter exercises are well known to be great techniques to lower stress, while regular exercise, a healthy diet, socialising and a decent night’s sleep are also important. Just make sure you get the chance for some down time once in a while.
Warm feet = happy nose
It’s not just an old wives’ tale – keeping your feet and toes toasty is an important part of keeping the door slammed on cold and flu viruses. It’s all to do with an odd connection to the nose. Apparently when your feet are freezing the walls of your nose contract, turn cold and dry and subsequently hinder the functioning of your mucous membranes. The knock-on effect is that dust and bacteria is not get filtered out in the same way and you become more susceptible to germs entering through your snoz.
Attack with vitamins
Sometimes attack is the best form of defence. One of the best ways to prepare your body for a fight is to lace it with the necessary vitamins and minerals as soon as you show the symptoms of a cold. Zinc gluconate lozenges have been shown to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms by an average of three days while Vitamin C protects white blood cells, boosts levels of virus-fighting interferon and natural killer cells, and fortifies the mucous membranes. Vitamin D is another useful weapon in your anti-cold arsenal. Usually garnered through sunshine, a daily supplement can help optimise your blood’s resistance to viruses during the winter months.
Water, water everywhere
Drinking significant amounts of water is another key to ensuring the body and its internal cleaning system is working properly. Everybody knows they are supposed to drink 8-12 8oz cups of water a day (even though it seems like a ridiculously daunting feat), but the reasons for doing so are not often made clear. With regards to flu prevention, water helps the body detox itself by flushing out toxins. If you’ve got a cough it also keeps the mucus lining in the lung area thin and lubricated, making it easier to have a productive cough.
Arguably the most effective way of preventing flu is to get vaccinated. If you’re over 65, have a serious medical condition or are pregnant it is highly advisable that you sign-up for the free jab on the NHS. The best time to get vaccinated is September to early November when the latest version of the jab is made public. Given the propensity of flu viruses to mutate, it’s incredibly important that you receive the correct and most up-to-date version possible.