Surprising ways to stay healthy and cold-free this winter

It's the infectious illness we all suffer when the temperature starts dropping.

Sore throats, coughs, runny nose, the shivers and headaches – and not an effective cure in sight.

The common cold laughs ­mockingly at us throughout winter – or rather sneezes all over us.

And when the sniffles strike, you just have to sit it out with plenty of fluids and painkillers – so here are some tactics to keep the rhinovirus infections at bay.

Sing while you soap

You can catch a cold by inhaling infected ­droplets coughed, sneezed or breathed out by a carrier. But you can also pick up a rhinovirus infection on your hands from ­doorknobs or handrails and trolleys.

Some of these viruses can survive on your hands for up to an hour, so try to wash your hands regularly.

And do a thorough job. Don’t just run your hands under water.

The World Health Organisation recommends 20 seconds using soap – roughly the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

So go for it (in your head ­preferably to avoid strange looks) as you clean palms, backs of hands, in between fingers and thumbs and under the nails. Dry with a paper towel, then use it to turn off the tap.

Don’t touch your face

Can’t get to a basin to wash your hands? Then avoid touching your face until you can. Cold viruses enter your body through your mouth, eyes or nose.

If you’re prone to nail-biting, use a special bitter-tasting polish to help discourage you from the habit.

Wash it hot

As well as surviving on hard surfaces, cold and flu viruses linger on fabrics, too.

If someone in your house has the sniffles, microbiologists suggest skipping the eco-friendly option on your washing machine when doing their clothes, bedding and towels, as the wash temperature won’t be high enough.

Instead, go for 60 degrees. Use a hot cycle in your dryer if you can, to kill off microbes.

Take echinacea

The herb has been shown to prevent cold symptoms erupting, says immunologist Dr Ross Walton.

In 2012, 755 participants took part in the longest and largest trial by the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff on the preventative use of echinacea over a four-month period.

Dr Walton says: “The development of recurrent colds reduced by 59%, as well as symptom severity.”

He adds that herbal ­medicines that contain all parts of the plant – such as A.Vogel Echinaforce (£4.99; ), work best.

Go incognito

Cover your face and nose with a scarf in cold weather .

A Yale University study found the virus flourishes better in the naturally cooler environment of your nasal passages than at a warmer core body ­temperature because the immune response doesn’t work as well in the cold.

So keeping nasal passages warm could mean the virus won’t replicate as easily.

Gargle with sea salt water

People with the first symptoms of a cold who washed out mucus from the nose and gargled with cooled, boiled salt water reduced their cold virus ­symptoms by two days, Edinburgh researchers found.

They were less likely to need medicines. It’s thought sea salt may boost the body’s ­antiviral defences.

Keep your feet warm too

Research has found if our feet become chilly, blood vessels in our noses constrict.

Less blood flow to the nose means fewer cold-fighting white cells will reach it, so any dormant infection is more likely to take hold.

Wear socks with at least 60% wool to keep toes toasty.


A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found people who exercised regularly cut cold risks by half.

Try to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) every week.

Be an office clean freak

Almost half of desks, computer mice and office phones harbour the cold virus, according to research.

Desk sharing can expose you to five times more germs than if you have your own. Pack eco-friendly tissues in your work bag to wipe down your workstation.

Stop stressing

An experiment that saw people given the cold virus nasally revealed the most stressed were more likely to succumb than those who were relaxed.

Researchers concluded that under stress immune system cells produce levels of inflammation that lead to disease. If you are stressed, try yoga or meditation.

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