Is your ribcage sore from coughing? Does your nose feel like it’s never going to stop running? Is your head fuzzy with catarrh? Are you wheezing, sneezing, snuffling and finding it hard to breathe? Are you shivering one minute, then burning up the next? You’re certainly not alone. Colds and flu affect many of us, particularly at this time of year when the temperature drops. The NHS offers free flu jabs for the elderly and vulnerable and there are a variety of prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies for coughs and colds; but you can also help to boost your immune system and speed-up recovery by drinking plenty of fluids and eating certain foods.
We should always aim to drink around 8 glasses of water per day, but drinking fluids is especially important when we have colds or flu. Drinking any kind of fluid is good, since it replenishes lost fluids, keeps the mucus membranes moist and helps to loosen phlegm, but green tea is believed to be particularly beneficial as it contains antioxidants which help boost the immune system.
Chicken soup is not only comforting when you feel unwell; it also helps to make you feel better by slowing down the activity of white blood cells, which can cause inflammation of the lungs.
Foods rich in Vitamin C
There’s no absolute proof that Vitamin C can prevent you from getting a cold but it may help to speed up recovery by a couple of days by lessening the symptoms. Foods containing Vitamin C, such as oranges, tomatoes, broccoli and strawberries do have a slight antihistaminic effect, reducing swelling of the nasal linings and helping you to breathe more easily.
Why do we tend to want spicy foods when we’ve got a cold? Possibly because we often feel that they’re about the only thing we can taste – or maybe it’s our body’s way of helping us out. It turns out that spicy food containing chillies, garlic and turmeric are great for breaking up sinus congestion.
Foods rich in iron and zinc
Iron and zinc are good weapons for fighting infection, so make sure that you include them in your meals. Lean meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, dark green leafy vegetables, apricots, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate are all excellent sources.
Honey is considered to be a bit of a wonder food. Not only does it seem to keep forever, it has soothing properties. If you have a spoonful of honey it can help reduce a cough by coating the throat and soothing the irritation. What’s more it is antibacterial (in ancient times it was used to heal wounds) and can give an instant energy boost. Plus it contains fewer calories than sugar.
How to help prevent a cold from spreading
Colds and flu are viruses and can be spread from one person to another through coughing and sneezing or by touching either people or surfaces. If you already have a cold and want to stop it from spreading to others there are a few simple steps you can take:
Don’t go to work – you’ll only pass it on to colleagues. Better that you stay at home, get some rest and take plenty of fluids.
Always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze – ideally with a tissue.
Use tissues rather than handkerchiefs – once you’ve used a tissue, dispose of it. Don’t stuff it up your sleeve or into a pocket.
Wash your hands regularly – this is extremely important! Wash properly after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hand, using the toilet or handling food or crockery. You should be doing this anyway, but if you have a virus it’s even more important than ever.
Clean hard surfaces and wash bedding – Did you know that cold and flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours? Well, you do now! To stop them from spreading clean any surfaces that you handle often, for example light switches, keyboards, remote controls, phones, door knobs etc. A disinfectant wipe should do the trick! You might also want to change bedding and wash towels more regularly.
Preventing viruses from being transmitted is exceedingly important if you work in the food industry. For information on all Food Safety courses from basic to advanced.
I’m off to make some chicken soup and take some honey. If you’re suffering too, hope you feel much better soon!