Colds and influenza are extremely common during winter, but there are ways to increase your chances of avoiding them – including maintaining a healthy lifestyle, minimizing stress and exercising regularly.

A healthy lifestyle is key

Don’t wait until you get sick to look for a remedy: try prevention instead of treatment.

Stress can make an individual more susceptible to illness because it causes the body to release excess amounts of cortisol, a hormone that depresses the immune system and decreases its functioning abilities. In other words, working too hard, not eating properly and worrying unnecessarily all have a negative impact on the immune system. A healthy lifestyle, and allowing your body time to relax and rest, is thus the key to staying well throughout the winter.

Taking a daily dose of echinacea throughout the flu season – and not just when you’re already sick – is also thought to be beneficial to health and can reduce the risk of getting a cold or influenza, and of recovering more quickly should your body succumb. The herbal remedy is thought by many to provide a natural boost to the immune system, though the exact science behind echinacea extract’s medicinal benefits is still a little sketchy.

Beat the winter flu

Vitamin C, which is naturally present in most fruit and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, also boosts the immune system. Many people take vitamin supplements throughout the winter to help keep colds and flu at bay. Some swear by them, while others believe that vitamin supplements are simply passed out in the body’s waste – but it certainly can’t hurt to take one a day.

Practice good hygiene

If you are often in close contact with individuals that already have colds or flu, following basic hygiene steps is essential. Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap; particularly after touching light switches, door handles and other surfaces that people frequently come in contact with. Limit exposure to infected people (perhaps take your own car rather than use public transport); and if you’re really worried about getting the flu this winter, get an anti-flu shot.

How to cope if you do become ill

‘Rest up with a bowl of hot chicken soup’ is what many people say, and while it may not sound particularly scientific, there’s certainly something in it. The warmth of a hot meal at least makes you feel better – and being relaxed helps the body fight off the infection. The resting part, however, is the real key to a fast recovery.

Drink plenty of fluids – water, juice, and soup – and avoid alcohol and caffeine-based drinks, which can have a dehydrating effect.

Whether or not acupuncture can cure a common cold is a contentious point, but practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have certainly believed this for thousands of years.  It is said to alleviate symptoms and accelerate the healing process by boosting the body’s own immune system.

And then there is the array of over the counter meds, such as the ones available from Canadian Pharmacy. Choose the ones that are appropriate to your symptoms rather than multi-symptom medications, i.e. choose a nasal decongestant if you have a runny nose, pain relief for a fever and that all-over achy feeling, and expectorants if you are all bunged up. Do not overdose! Taking more than the recommended dose is of no benefit and it can be dangerous. Should you be taking two medicines at the same time, be careful not to duplicate ingredients.