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Cold and flu prevention: what works, what doesn’t

Women often feel like a lot of people depend on us.  Rightly or wrongly, it’s easy to picture the wheels falling off if we’re not around to keep them spinning.

So, when winter sets in, the last thing you want is to be struck by some sort of cold or flu that can put you out of action.  Despite our best efforts scientists are yet to come up with a cure for the common cold, meaning the best thing you can do to protect yourself is try to support your immune system so it can fight off any viruses that come your way.

Be suspicious of products claiming to do this for you, especially when there’s a hefty price tag attached. Even common remedies can be treated with a healthy dose of scepticism.

The evidence shows vitamin C won’t prevent a cold but, if taken early enough when you get one, it might shorten its duration. And echinacea, another favoured cold treatment, is a bit sketchy.  It looks like it doesn’t prevent colds or flus and there is very mixed evidence early use can shorten a cold’s duration.

Keeping your vitamins C, A, E, B6 and iron and zinc levels up naturally before getting sick, by eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods is probably a more effective preventative.

We all have our favourite home remedies for when we’re sick, such as hot soup, lemon and honey drinks or steam inhalation.  While they might not actually fix us, they can soothe our symptoms so we don’t feel so miserable. Sometimes it’s just about being a little bit kind to yourself.

If you want to share your favourite home remedies head over to the Healthy Food Guide Facebook page and post it in our thread there.  We’ll be publishing the best ones in the next issue.

I tend to agree with Harvard Medical School when they say the best way to boost immunity is to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

This means:

  • avoiding smoking
  • eating plenty of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains, while keeping saturated fat levels low
  • regularly exercising
  • finding ways to destress
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • sleeping enough
  • drinking moderately or not at all
  • practising hand hygiene
  • and getting regular, appropriate medical checks.

It’s the same recipe for health we see time and time again – it’s what our parents told us and, probably, what their parents told them.

Also, if you do get sick give yourself permission to take some time off to get better.  You’ll recover faster and you’ll do everyone a favour by keeping your bugs to yourself.  The wheels will still be on when you get back.

For more on colds and flus check out editor-in-chief Niki Bezzant’s column in the July issue of Healthy Food Guide out now.

First published: Jun 2016



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