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Cold and Flu Survival Guide - Infographic

By Laura W.  Tuesday 12th April, 2016
Cold and Flu Survival Guide - Infographic

Cold and Flu Survival Guide

Cold and flu affect over 15 million people in the UK each year. On average, adults suffer three to four per year, while children can suffer from as many as eight. The handy cold and flu infographic above highlights common symptoms to watch out for, plus, expert advice on lifestyle, diet, and herbal remedies. 

Is it cold or flu?  

The symptoms of colds and flu can overlap so it can be tricky to know which you are suffering from. Both can be caught at any time of the year, although flu, in particular, is thought to thrive in low humidity and colder weather. Both are also highly contagious so you should stay home and try to rest.

The common cold can be caused by over one thousand different viruses, but the rhinovirus is the most common. Symptoms are often mild and last for four to five days and rarely lead to more serious health implications. Common symptoms of the common cold are: 

  • mild fatigue 
  • cough 
  • chills 
  • runny nose 
  • sneezing 
  • sore throat 

Flu is caused by active viruses that mutate from year to year. This is why you need a fresh flu jab each year to defend against any new strains. Flu often presents additional symptoms to the common cold, which tend to be more severe. The symptoms can last up to seven days, but it’s not uncommon to feel run down for a further week or more. Common flu symptoms are: 

  • fever above 101 degrees 
  • nasal congestion
  • cough 
  • headache 
  • muscle aches 
  • fatigue and weakness 
  • exhaustion 

Flu can cause complications such as pneumonia in people in high-risk groups such as the young, elderly, or those with lung or heart problems. 

When to call the doctor? 

  • the child is under six months old 
  • you have an existing medical condition 
  • you have difficulty breathing or experience shortness of breath 
  • if a fever that lasts for over three days 
  • if a cough that persists for over three weeks 

How to prevent cold and flu? 

When it comes to cold and flu, prevention is by far the best defence. Adopt the following lifestyle habits to protect your immune system against infection: 

  • Throw away used tissues: Sneezing or blowing your nose into a tissue is the best way to catch germs and prevent them from spreading. But make sure used tissues are thrown away and not left on surfaces or put up your sleeve.
  • Wash your hands on a regular basis: Cold and flu viruses enter the body through the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and mouth. When you touch these areas you may be infecting yourself with a virus so you should avoid touching your face as much as possible. Wash your hands regularly in soapy water for at least twenty seconds, or use an alcohol-based sanitiser. 
  • Wash laundry on a hot setting: Clothes, bedding and towels can all spread germs. During and after a cold, wash laundry on a hot setting to completely kill remaining germs and reduce the risk of recurrence.
  • Exercise daily: Regular exercise boosts the body’s natural defences and is an effective preventative measure against cold and flu. Exercising for just thirty minutes three to four times a week can raise immunity. However, if you have a fever, you may need to avoid heavy exercises until symptoms subside. 
  • Eat nutritious meals full of antioxidants: Foods rich in vitamin C such as bell peppers, strawberries, and citrus fruits help to fight viruses and bacteria. Plants from the Allium family such as garlic, onions and leeks can also help to strengthen the immune system so are great choices to season food.
  • Keep your fluids up: Drinking lots of water is one of the best things you can do when you have a cold or flu as runny noses and sweating increase the amount of water the body loses and the risk of dehydration. 
  • Get enough sleep: During deep sleep, many of the body’s reparative processes occur, As a result, a proper night’s sleep helps the body to heal and speeds up recovery. In contrast, sleep deprivation reduces the body’s resistance to viruses and allows them to take hold. 
  • Flu vaccine: The annual flu vaccine is recommended for adults in ‘high-risk’ groups, such as pregnant women, adults over 65, and people with certain medical conditions. The flu season often runs from autumn to spring so the best time to get the vaccine is in early autumn before the flu season starts. 

Natural remedies for cold and flu 

These herbal remedies for immunity can be effective at reducing the frequency and severity of colds and flu:

  • Echinacea: Echinacea has a long history of use for the treatment of respiratory problems. Studies show that taking Echinacea daily for four months can reduce the number of colds and their duration by an average of 26%. It has also been shown to reduce the need for paracetamol during a cold and the recurrence of infections by 59%. Echinacea supplements are safe to take continuously throughout the year or simply start taking them at the first sign of a cold.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic contains compounds with antimicrobial, antiviral and antibiotic properties that help to fight germs. Studies have shown that a daily garlic supplement can reduce the frequency of cold and flu compared to a placebo, and help symptoms to subside faster. It also acts as an effective decongestant. For best results, crush a clove of fresh garlic and eat on a daily basis or use to season food. If you find this somewhat anti-social, garlic supplements may be an attractive alternative. 
  • Zinc: Healthy levels of zinc are essential for the maintenance of a strong and resilient immune system. Zinc is believed to stop viruses from multiplying, particularly those that affect the respiratory system, and has been shown to shorten the length of a cold by one to two days compared to a placebo. However, taking too much can be detrimental. As a year-round preventative measure, take up to 15mg zinc supplements daily. During a cold, this can be increased to 50mg for up to four weeks. 
  • Herbal Teas: Many herbs work well in tea form and can provide an extra boost to the immune system. Honey and lemon tea has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiseptic effects that can help to soothe sore throats. Ginger tea can help to reduce inflammation and offer relief from nausea and vomiting. Echinacea can be added to tea to reduce the risk of infection. Green tea is another immune system booster that delivers a small amount of caffeine to boost energy levels. 
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