Scientists are getting closer to a cure for the common cold – but until then it is down to us to square up to the sniffles.
Coughs and chills accounts for 27million sick days off work each autumn and winter.
Researchers in California aim to put an end to that, after pin-pointing a protein that the cold virus needs to thrive.
Here, experts Dr Ross Perry and Dr Emma Derbyshire, a Health and Food Supplements Information Service nutritionist, give us seven ways to help ourselves in the meantime.
1 Swap sandwiches for soup
We end up craving comfort food in winter but Dr Derbyshire says we should stick to healthy soups and stews packed with veg and not fall into the pudding trap.
“Eating warmer foods can help to heat you up. Things like the chemical capsaicin in chilli can warm you by stimulating the metabolism .
“Putting them in soups and stews can be a healthier way to warm you up instead of going for the puddings.
“A hearty soup can help you get some vegetables too.”
2 Take vitamin D
As winter draws in, DrDerbyshire says it is important to take a vitamin D supplement. A study in the National Library of Medicine found a deficiency is linked to more infections.
Dr Derbyshire said: “We don’t get enough sunlight so it’s just a good all-rounder to take. Especially for those people who sit inside in offices all day, tied to their desk.”
Fortified cereals and milk may also provide more vitamin D.
3 Eat lemon peel
Lemons are an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C – so Dr Perry advises adding peel to dishes for an extra boost.
Oranges and grapefruits are not quite as high in vitamin C but are more pleasant to eat. “Drinking hot water with lemon every morning is a good way to get an early dose of vitamin C without having to eat an actual lemon,”he suggests. He also advises kale, kiwi fruit and Brussels sprouts. All are good immune boosters.
4 Better medicine
Too many people are taking antibiotics for a cough or cold, Dr Derbyshire says. It is leading to antibiotic resistance.
She suggests a cough medicine containing pelargonium, such as a brand called Kaloba.
“There are more natural cough syrups we can use with an extract in called pelargonium. It comes from the geranium plant and helps reduce symptoms of colds without antibiotics.”
But if symptoms persist, go to the doctor.
5 Walk every day
Gentle exercise is an excellent way to strengthen your immunity – and we should be doing more, Dr Perry says.
“Try to exercise regularly. Get outside every day for a 15-minute walk to boost circulation – it’s a huge benefit to immunity and cardiovascular health,” he says.
6 Do not binge on booze
Making sure you are properly hydrated is essential to good health. And going easy on the alcohol helps.
Dr Perry said: “As tempting as it is when the nights draw in to turn to alcohol, try not to drink too much as this can weaken your immunity, make you dehydrated and more susceptible to colds.”
7 Get enough sleep
Sleeping allows your body to rest, repair and fight off infections.
When the party season kicks in, it might be hard but try to get eight hours a night.
Dr Perry said: “Get a good amount of rest and sleep to allow your body to recover and give it chance to fight any infections.
“Do not let your body get itself run down. That’s when immune systems suffer and germs and infections take hold.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, not enough sleep means you produce fewer infection-fighting proteins called cytokines. These are released while you sleep, so less sleep means less protein.