Cold remedies: How to get rid of a virus

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COVID-19 has dominated the headlines – and virtually every aspect of day-to-day life for so long. And this makes it easy to forget that other viruses still exist. However, the so-called “super cold” that started doing the rounds last autumn did its best to remind us! Ever since, I’ve seen a significant rise in the number of coughs, colds and (non-COVID) viral infections in circulation. It’s as a result of dropping social distancing measures and germs finding their way back into the mainstream. I certainly haven’t manage to escape them, and neither has The Husband. I’ve had two colds so far – one in November, then the other leading up to the Christmas break. However, this is where I think cold remedies may have helped.

While nowhere near as serious as COVID-19, the common cold still has the capacity to make you and I miserable. Colds can be surprisingly debilitating, and remarkably tenacious, sometimes lasting up to two weeks. Common symptoms include sneezing, a blocked or runny nose, sore throat and headache. You can also suffer from muscle aches, high temperature, lethargy, loss of taste and/or smell, and pressure in your ears or face. So, this is hardly a delightful way to spend a fortnight! Of course, nowadays, if you experience any of these symptoms, it’s vital to take a COVID test immediately. Once you have discounted that possibility however, it’s time to seek assistance elsewhere in a bid to feel better fast. Read on to discover this selection of cold remedies, which could help to ease your symptoms as swiftly and painlessly as possible.

cold remedies girl feeling chilly
While seldom serious, the common cold is unpleasant and sometimes surprisingly debilitating, thanks to symptoms such as chills, aches, fever, sneezing, congestion and fatigue

In praise of prevention

Where colds (and indeed a good deal else in life is concerned), prevention is better than cure. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting a cold. Good hand hygiene is vital: wash them regularly and thoroughly with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. Touching our faces is another big no-no. Most of us do it on average 23 times an hour – without even noticing! We’re particularly prone to touching our nose, eyes, chin and mouth. However, these are all areas through which the cold virus can enter our bodies. Take care not to share household items – anything from cups to towels – with other family members. Choose disposable tissues, and bin them as soon as possible. Keeping your immune system as strong and healthy as possible will also boost your protection.

vitamins for cold remedies
If you struggle to get your recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals in your diet, a high-quality multivitamin could be the answer

Multivitamins are a multi-billion pound global industry. I’ve often wondered if taking certain supplements really can help to prevent anyone catching a cold. “Taking care of your immune system by ensuring you aren’t lacking any vital vitamins and minerals is essential,” counsels Nutritionist and Psychologist, Dr. Naomi Newman-Beinart PhD. “I advise patients to eat a balanced diet. But this isn’t always easy and many people struggle to get the recommended daily allowance of certain vitamins and minerals.” She continues: “If you’re worried about catching everything going around, try taking a high-quality multivitamin such as Evity. They are really affordable and include high-quality, science-based nutrients such as Vitamin C and D, selenium, zinc and cordyceps mushrooms for immune support. They also contain essential nutrients that other multivitamins sometimes miss out, like boron, Vitamin K2, amino acids and phytosterols.”

Alleviating cold symptoms

cold remedies sore throat
Cinnamon might not seem like the most obvious cold remedy, but its anti-inflammatory properties can be very effective at relieving a sore and painful throat

The reality is that even Lady Macbeth-levels of handwashing can’t always prevent us from catching a cold. So, once you’ve succumbed, what can you do to alleviate the symptoms? Once of the first things I suggest you do is start drinking. Staying hydrated is vital to help break down congestion, keep your throat lubricated, and ‘flush’ out the cold. Alcohol and milky drinks, however, are off the menu (the latter especially can increase mucus levels).

Plain old water is one of the best cold remedies. Choose still or sparkling, and add a slice of citrus for extra refreshment. I find herbal teas can also feel very restorative. If you like the taste, do try something with cinnamon. According to top-class chef and organic farmer Susy Massetti, it can help to clear mucus and infection due to its anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. “In addition, cinnamon can help to relieve a sore and painful throat because it acts as an anti-inflammatory,” she explains.

Sleep yourself better

Could a good night’s sleep be one of the best cold remedies? It’s easier said than done if you’re achy and congested, of course. But I think taking yourself off to bed could definitely help you recover more quickly. When you’re sleeping, your body produces proteins called cytokines, which are important for fighting infection and inflammation. So, prioritise some early nights if you’re feeling under the weather, especially if you’ve been busier than usual in the run-up to getting infected.

Cold remedies for headache
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep: rest is essential for recovery and repair

“When we’re busy, it’s easy to try to compromise on sleep,” notes Dr Tara Hurst, lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at Birmingham City University. “But sleep is a physiological process that is essential for our health, especially for the brain. It has been found that poor sleep is also linked with a greater risk of becoming ill with cold viruses, such as rhinoviruses.” She adds: “Improving sleep and stress management are not necessarily quick fixes when it comes to fighting colds. But the investment of time into both of these can mean fewer colds over the winter months.”

Eat yourself well

Medical Herbalist MNIMH Pamela Spence agrees that extra rest, a good night’s sleep and a healthy diet can all help us to recover faster from illnesses such as colds. Her advice to bolster the immune system? “Eat the rainbow,” she declares. “Make sure you feed your body a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables daily. We all need a good source of Vitamin C at the moment. So if you can’t get it from fresh food, consider a supplement.” Pamela continues: “Zinc is also a key mineral that supports immunity. So make sure you either supplement, or eat plenty of food sources like cashews, almonds, baked beans, and also meat if you eat it.”

balanced diet for cold remedies
Eat the rainbow: a balanced diet that features a range of colourful fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to strengthen your immune system

Where natural cold remedies are concerned, what you shouldn’t eat is just as important as what you should. “One of the worst culprits in the diet for reducing immunity is sugar,” Pamela notes. “However, before you go sugar-free, be aware that many sugar alternatives are even worse for you. So try to retrain your palette to crave sugar less, and opt for healthier alternatives like honey or stevia. Certain herbs can also help to balance blood sugar levels, and make you less likely to crave sugar.”

Herbal remedies

Some of Pamela’s favourite herbs to incorporate into cold remedies are thyme and echinacea. “Thyme has a high level of antimicrobial essential oil in it. This means that it’s very helpful to take at the onset of a cold or sore throat,” she explains. “Simply add a couple of fresh sprigs to a mug of boiled water, infuse for at least five minutes and drink two to three cups a day. You can add honey for some extra immune support and to help too soothe your throat too.”

Echinacea for cold remedies
I think super-herb echinacea is brilliant at helping the body fight off all sorts of infection, including coughs and colds

Echinacea has been used as a traditional herbal remedy for centuries. Once best-known as a treatment for snake bites, it’s evolved into one of the most popular natural cold remedies. “Echinacea is very good at helping the body at the onset of infection, because it raises the white blood cell count and it’s your white blood cells that fight infection for you,” Pamela confirms. “

It’s a great herbal ally for the moment you feel that tickle in your throat. It can either help you avoid getting a cold, or reduce the severity of symptoms, and the amount of time you have them for. I also use it when symptoms are lingering, or when a person is getting one infection after another without much of a break in between.” Pamela counsels: “It’s best taken in tincture form to get a strong enough dose. My favourite over the counter product is A. Vogel’s Echinaforce.

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