It’s of no surprise that we’re feeling a little wary about mingling this Christmas season. After all, this is the first year since the pandemic began without restrictions on visiting family and the majority of businesses now being open. One particular fear many people have, besides the spread of COVID-19, is that they may have a lowered immune system from isolating and small social bubbles. This was seen in October 2021 when the ‘worst cold ever’ swept the UK.
While colds are thought of as a nuisance more than anything else, they can be an unpleasant experience. They often lead to missed days at work, weekends stuck with a pack of tissues and cancelled social plans. That’s why planning ahead and prioritising your health can help give you the best chance of avoiding a cold in the first place.
Cold and the flu are often used interchangeably when people say they’re ill, but in actual fact, they’re very different. A cold is generally much milder than the flu and can’t be vaccinated against. You can, however, get a flu vaccination to reduce your chance of getting the flu.
Common symptoms of a cold are:
Generally, colds take 1-2 weeks to go away and often don’t need GP help. If you find you take longer to recover or catch colds frequently, it’s worth booking a GP appointment. This is because it could point to a larger issue with your immune system or overall health.
It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients, especially Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Zinc. Vitamin C and E are proven to help maintain a healthy immune system and can be found in leafy greens, nuts, sunflower seeds and avocados. Zinc is a trace element that helps your body produce new enzymes and your overall health and can be found in spinach and cashew nuts. Vitamin D is another essential vitamin for the winter months, especially in the winter months when sunlight is low. Vitamin D is found in foods such as mushrooms and you can also take supplements. It’s important to prioritise a healthy, balanced diet to make sure your body gets everything it needs to function at its best.
It’s also very important to wash your hands regularly throughout the day to avoid catching a cold. If you’re using public transport, you can also use hand sanitizer or wear gloves.
While it can be hard to find the motivation to exercise in the winter, it’s incredibly helpful for your immune system. Exercise helps to increase and improve your circulation and this increased blood flow can actually strengthen your heart and immune system.
Regular exercise can also help you manage your stress levels, thanks to the release of endorphins. While this might not seem like a factor, long-term stress actually damages your immune system. Other ways to improve your stress levels can include meditation, setting time limits on social media and journaling. You can also seek professional help to support you, this can help prevent burnout and create a healthier work-life balance.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccination for the common cold. This is because the common cold is actually made up of many different viral types and strains. Rhinoviruses are believed to make up 50% of colds but there are over 150 strains of rhinovirus circulating throughout the population at any time! This makes creating a vaccine that protects against every different type next to impossible.
The best tool we have to avoid catching colds frequently is to make sure we look after our health. It’s important to try to limit exposure to people who have colds. This might mean speaking to your office about creating a policy around coming into work with illness or working from home where possible. If you are exposed to people with a cold, make sure to wash your hands regularly and try to keep a window open for airflow.
Despite your best efforts, you may still end up catching a cold. There isn’t a cure for the common cold but you can do your best to minimise the symptoms. This can also help the cold go away quickly so you can get back to your life.
Treating a cold is primarily about letting your body rest. We recommend:
You can also speak to a pharmacist to recommend some over the counter remedies. Decongestant sprays or tablets can help with blocked noses and painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can help with muscle ache and temperatures.
We hope you’ll manage to avoid a cold this winter, but LycaHealth is always here if you do need support with your health. You can book a remote GP appointment to discuss your issues or get in touch with us for more information.
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