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How to keep colds and flu at bay

Regardless of how healthy you are, anyone can succumb to colds and the flu, especially as the winter months close in. The nature of life means we are bound to come into contact with germs at some point, whether at work, in public places or from children.

There are, however, plenty of ways in which you can try and keep colds and flu at bay. Firstly, let’s clear up the difference between a run-of-the-mill cold and a case of the flu, as the two are often mistaken for one and the same thing.

A cold is definitely the more bearable of the two, with symptoms including a runny and or blocked nose, a sore throat, coughing and plenty of sneezing. Some sufferers also experience headaches and earaches – sometimes even a mild fever.

Flu, on the other hand, is a lot more dangerous. It’s categorised by symptoms such as sweating, painful or achy muscles, exhaustion and feeling faint, a dry, chesty cough and a sudden fever of around 38 – 40C.

This is why it is so important to look after yourself and really boost your immune system. Why not try some of these suggestions?

Eat well

By eating the right things, you’re ensuring your body is receiving all the vitamins and nutrients it needs to stay healthy. It’s important to consume foods that are rich in:

  • Vitamin C: An important vitamin and anti-oxidant, your body uses Vitamin C to stay strong and healthy. It can be found in oranges (including orange juice), red and green peppers, kiwi fruit and strawberries.
  • Vitamin E: Again, this vitamin helps to maintain a healthy immune system. You can find it in spinach, nuts, sunflower seeds, avocados and fish.
  • Zinc: A trace element that helps our bodies to produce new enzymes, as well as increase immune health. Zinc can be found in meat, spinach, cashew nuts and dairy foods

Manuka honey is a great food to include in your diet. As well as being naturally sweet (so you could substitute Manuka honey for sugar) it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help to ease the symptoms of a cold. Why not try a teaspoon-full stirred into coffee or a cup of chamomile tea?


We all know exercise helps increase and improve our circulation, but what you might not know is that this increased blood flow can actually strengthen our heart and immune system, which in turn can improve our ability to fight infections.

Take echinacea tablets

Although more research is needed to discover the specific effects Echinacea has on our bodies, many people who take it say they feel the benefits where the common cold is concerned. This is because of the perceived ability of Echinacea to stimulate the immune system and help fight infection, which can shorten the length of time you have a cold and reduce its symptoms.

Hand sanitiser

Hand sanitisers are a great way to help you avoid germs of colds and flu. Using it after contact with surfaces where somebody could have left some germs, (for example after sneezing into their hands), such as bannisters, door handles and public toilet flushers can help prevent the spread and reduce your risk of catching a cold or the flu.


Getting plenty of rest and enough sleep are things that should be part of everyday life because this helps to keep us healthy. If you get too tired or run-down then you’re more likely to succumb to illness and can find it harder to shake off.

Have you ever noticed that you find yourself more prone to illness after periods of poor-sleep?

The flu jab

If you are aged 65 or over, are pregnant or have a medical condition (such as a heart complaint, chest complaint or diabetes) you can request a flu jab through your GP. You can also request a vaccination through a nasal spray for children aged from 2-4 years of age through your GP. Alternatively, people aged 16 or over can now pay for a jab in places like Boots.

Have you discovered a particular method that helps to keep cold and flu viruses at bay?

Share with us your top tips by tweeting @benendenhealth or post on our Facebook page


Top 10 tips to keep colds at bay

NHS Direct Colds and Flu

NHS Direct Flu and the Flu vaccine