First things first – we often hear people use the word ‘flu’ and ‘cold’ interchangeably, but are they the same?
Well, in most cases, the only practical difference between colds and flu is that flu is likely to make you feel a lot worse for longer.
Both types of infection are caused by viruses, so antibiotics are of no help at all. That said, there are many things you can do to improve how you feel with a cold or flu, hasten your recovery and prevent infection in the first place.
We go through a range of suggestions and tips in this article on handling colds and flu.
A persistent cough is one of the most common reasons for visiting the doctor. But there is usually little on offer in the way of effective medicines, so might as well try a regular dose of dark chocolate. Researchers in London and Budapest have actually proved that an ingredient in chocolate called theobromine is highly effective in inhibiting laboratory-induced coughs in volunteers. Good news indeed for chocolate lovers!
This will make you more likely to catch a cold, according to a study of more than 200 workers over 3 months. Even those whohad control over their work were more likely to begin sneezing if they lacked confidence or tended to blame themselveswhen things went wrong. Researchers believe that such attitudes make people more stressed on the job, and stress itself canchallenge your immune system.
Colds are typically passed not from coughing or kissing (although those are 2 modes of transmission) but from hand-to-hand or hand-to-object contact, since most cold viruses can live for hours on objects. If you put your hand in or near your mouth or nose after touching an infected object, you are likely to be infected. Carrying hand-sanitiser gel or sanitising wipes with you allows you to clean your hands at any time, even if the closest water supply is miles away.
A US study of 40,000 naval recruits who were ordered to wash their hands five times a day found that the recruits cut their incidence of respiratory illnesses by 45%.
Every time you wash your hands, do it twice. Researchers who looked for germs on volunteers’ hands found that one handwashing had little effect, even when using antibacterial soap.
Your knuckles are less likely to be contaminated with viruses than your fingertips. This is particularly important given that the eyes provides a perfect entry point for germs, and most of us rub our eyes or nose at least 20 times a day.
An Austrian study published in 1990 found that volunteers who frequently used a sauna had half as many colds during the six- month study as those who didn’t use a sauna at all. It’s possible that the hot air you inhale in a sauna kills cold viruses.
Dissolve about half a teaspoon of salt in half a glass of warm water and gargle for one or two minutes, then spit out. A salt-water gargle soothes soreness and may also help to clear mucus.
If you have fever, over-the-counter painkiller such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen will help to lower temperature and combat headache, general aches and pains. But do take care not to exceed the maximum daily intake of paracetamol (4000mg for adults – that’s 8 500mg tablets) as doing so damages your liver.
When 146 volunteers received either one garlic supplement a day or a placebo for 12 weeks over the winter months, those taking the garlic Were less likely to catch a cold, if they did catch one, their symptoms were less intense and they recovered faster.
A study by an American university found that people who ate a tub of yogurt each day, whether live culture or pasteurised, had 25% fewer colds than non-yogurt eaters. So start eating yogurt everyday!
The force of blowing not only sends the phlegm out of your nose into a tissue but also propels some of it back into your sinuses, prolonging your cold symptoms.
If you really need to blow, blow gently, and blow one nostril at a time.
Fingernails are great hiding places for all sorts of germs. Enough said 😉
Whoever taught us to cover our mouths when we cough or sneeze got it wrong. This is because, doing that just put the germs right on our hands, where we can spread these germs to objects and subsequently, other people. What we should do instead is to use tissue whenever possible and dispose of the tissue hygienically or hold the crook of your elbow over your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
This is also why we should put a box of tissues strategically around the house, workplace and in the car. With tissues available within arm’s length, people that have to cough, sneeze or blow their noses can do so in a way (i.e. use tissue) that is least likely to spread germs.
You can kick-start the recovery process by including plenty of the following infection fighting nutrients in your diet :
Protein – Rebuilds strength and many sources also supply B vitamins, zinc and selenium, which are vital for a healthy immune system. Try to eat at least 50g of protein daily from lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds.
Anti-oxidants – Health boosting compounds such as Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene, found in many plant food. Try to eat at least seven portions of fruit and vegetables everyday. Lightly steam, rather than boil, vegetables when possible, to minimise the loss of their nutrients during cooking.
Bioflavanoids – Nutrients that boost immune responses and hasten recovery from infections. Found especially in citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits, which also contain the powerful immune-boosting nutrient vitamin C.
Zinc – Important for healthy immune system function and resistance to infections. Food rich in zinc include eggs, seeds, nuts and whole grain cereals.
There’s science behind the traditional advice to sip a hot lemon drink. Lemons are rich in vitamin C, which improves the function of the white blood cells that destroy viruses and also reduces mucus production.
Add some honey to the drink to coat your throat and help to ease soreness and to reduce coughing.
Widely available in tablet or tincture form, echinacea cuts the duration of cold symptoms. But the question of whether taking the herbal supplement regularly can reduce your chances of catching a cold in the first place is still under debate.
Once you finished brushing your teeth, your toothbrush is a breeding ground for bacteria. Put toothbrush in the microwave on a high setting for 10 seconds to kill germs that can cause colds and other illnesses.
Your recovery will be faster if you take care of yourself rather than trying to tough it out. Don’t struggle into work feeling dreadful. Instead, take it easy for a day or two, especially if you have a fever or a bad cough. Keep warm and stay in bed if you feel exhausted as sleep helps your immune system to combat infection.
Eat a healthy diet, rich in infection fighting nutrients, and avoid dusty or smoky atmospheres, which will worsen your symptoms.
One of the best ways to relieve a stuffy nose is to add water vapour to the air. This can be done easily by using a humidifier.
Alternatively, try sitting in a steamy bathroom for a while. Adding moisture to the air helps to reduce irritation and makes it easier for you to sleep. Dry air not only dries out mucous membranes which makes nasal congestion, sore throat and coughing more likely, but also helps flu viruses to survive.
Exercise can boost your immune system and help to fight off the bugs. Gentle stretching exercises or yoga for 20 to 30 minutes a day are ideal. But avoid doing anything too strenuous as vigorous exercise, especially if you are not used to it, can set back your recovery.
Some studies suggest that zinc taken within a day of the onset of symptoms may help to shorten the duration of a cold. Use a supplement or lozenges, but avoid zinc nasal sprays, as these may damage your sense of smell. Research indicates that taking zinc combined with high dose of vitamin C is even more effective.
Taking inplenty of fluids may help to keep mucus loose and avoid dehydration. It will also ease congestion and make up for moisture lost in mucus production and by fever. Water, juices and soups are ideal but avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks as these cause dehydration.
If any respiratory infection makes it hard for you to breathe or you feel unusually drowsy or if you have difficulty rousing someone else, seek immediate medical advice. Also, if the symptoms worsen or don’t improve within a week or so, consult your doctor Seek help for: