Feeling snotty? ‘Tis the season, unfortunately. But for those of us who aren’t prepared to curl up in an aching ball surrounded by used tissues and Vicks, here’s a quick guide to the self-care remedies that could help you stay cold-free. You’ll also find the information that you need to avoid those less-than-useless ‘treatments’ you might normally have been desperate enough to try.
First up, what makes you more likely to get ill in winter?
The theory: The cold weather lowers your immune system.
The truth: There’s no set in stone answer here. Some believe that when it’s cold, people are more likely to stay inside, so germs can spread easily. But Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre disputes this, saying that our cities are just as crowded during the summer as they are in winter. If a new theory which the centre refers to is to be believed, the cold weather does make us more susceptible to colds by cooling our noses, which lowers its resistance to infection. So what can you do? Next time you wrap up before heading out into the freezing cold, throw on a scarf that can loosely cover your nose.
Now to treating those pesky winter illnesses.
The theory: Eating chicken soup will help cure your cold.
The truth: As research published in the American Journal of Therapeutics reveals, chicken soup contains a compound called carnosine which helps our immune systems to fight off the early stages of flu. Typical chicken soup ingredients, such as onions and garlic, also add to the broth’s therapeutic properties: the Mail Online refers to evidence that suggests onions and garlic, along with Vitamin D, stimulate the body to produce immune cells called macrophage. The vitamin A and carotenoids in carrots are also good news for your cold-ravaged body, as these goodies help antibody production.
The theory: Taking vitamin C will sort out your sniffles.
The truth: Steve Gardner from the Center for Science in the Public Interest reveals: “For some people [vitamin C] might reduce the severity or duration of a cold, but won’t prevent one.” We won’t blame you if you still reach for the orange juice to feel better though; there’s much to be said for the placebo effect too!
The theory: Rinsing the nose out with a saline nasal wash could help get rid of a cough, blocked nose and a sore throat.
The truth: In 2008, a study was published which found that children who rinsed their nasal passageways six times a day using a saline nasal wash saw an improvement in their cold symptoms, they also had fewer recurring colds. However, it’s best to only use this method when you have a cold – not as a preventative measure – or you could wash away the nose’s protective mucus layer.
The remedies that could well be a waste of time:
Zinc: According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, even the highest-quality randomized trials that explore the effect of zinc on colds generally show no benefit. Worse still, the FDA even warned consumers not to use three zinc-containing intranasal products because they may cause a loss of the sense of smell.
Antibiotics: We all know by now not to ask our doctors for antibiotics to treat the common cold. As the Mayo Foundation explains, they won’t help you get better any faster and you could worsen the increasingly serious problem of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.
This piece was produced with the help of our friends at Health-on-Line. All information correct at time of writing: 16/12/2013