Tackling cold and flu season

You don’t have to hibernate all winter to avoid getting sick! Our practical guide will help you prevent and treat illness swiftly this winter.

Once the Christmas tree has been taken down and the lights have been packed away, several long months of winter still lie ahead. All that time spent inside hiding from the cold can not only make us vulnerable to cabin fever, but also to a range of nasty cold and flu viruses that are spread from being in close contact with others. Before you know it, the whole family is sniffling and sneezing.

Find out how to keep illness at bay this winter, and what to do if you do get sick.

Preventing colds and flus

There are several simple steps you can take to prevent colds and flus.

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you’re sick to avoid spreading your illness
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap isn’t available, particularly after touching potentially contaminated people or surfaces
  • Clean shared surfaces and objects such as doorknobs, phones, coffee pot handles and tap handles regularly
  • Dry your hands with an air dryer or paper towel in public places because hand towels can spread germs
  • Wash your hand towels regularly at home. If people are sick, give them their own separate hand towel to use
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth because you could have germs on your hands
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow rather than your hands to avoid spreading germs to others
  • Drink plenty of fluids, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get lots of sleep
  • Avoid smoking and manage your stress, which can decrease your immunity
  • Get a flu vaccine every year – it’s the single best way to prevent the flu

Treating colds and flus

Even if you follow all the steps above diligently, you may still get sick. Here’s what you can do to ease your symptoms and shorten the duration of your illness.

  • Resist the urge to overmedicate – a mild fever helps to fight infection and a cough clears your airways of infected mucus
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially hot ones such as herbal tea to relieve nasal congestion
  • Flush out your stuffy nose with warm, salty water and a nasal irrigation kit
  • Gargle several times a day with half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8oz of warm water to relieve a sore throat
  • Avoid stress and strenuous physical activity
  • Get as much rest as you can
  • Elevate your head with pillows when you sleep to clear nasal passages
  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration of your illness by one or two days – speak to your doctor to find out if they’re right for you

Natural cold and flu remedies

While some studies have shown the following remedies to be effective in treating colds and flus, most medical professionals maintain that none of them have been definitively proven to work and that more research is needed. But if you’re open to natural treatment options, it doesn’t hurt to try!

  • Chicken soup: A 2000 study found that it could relieve the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections
  • Honey: This incredible sticky substance has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Add a tablespoon of honey to your herbal tea to soothe your sore throat and cough (but never give honey to children under the age of one as it can cause botulism)
  • Ginger: Two tablespoons of shredded ginger in a cup of boiling water may help relieve a cough and sore throat
  • Garlic: The compound allicin present in garlic may have antimicrobial properties that could reduce the severity of your symptoms. Raw garlic works best!
  • Probiotics: These healthy bacteria may boost your gut health and immunity. Add probiotic yogurt or probiotic supplements to your daily diet.