5 natural ways to protect yourself from colds and flu this winter

Want to avoid the office lurgy? Here’s how to navigate cold and flu season unscathed.

The nights are getting colder, the mornings are getting crisper and everyone is carrying an emergency Kleenex packet in their coat pockets, which means one thing – sniffle season is well and truly here.

While you might think you don’t have to worry about colds until you actually catch one, what you probably don’t know is the symptoms (including a tickly throat and a runny nose) usually rear their heads between one and four days after you’re exposed to the virus. That means, by the time you start sneezing onto your keyboard, it’s already too late.

If you really want to avoid walking around the office looking and feeling like a zombie, you’ll need to get ahead of the game by taking a few preventative measures to safeguard your health – and with the NHS urging hospitals to brace themselves for a heavy flu outbreak in the UK this winter, there’s never been a better time to up your immunity.

Here are a handful of easy and natural ways to minimise your risk of getting sick this season.

Chomp on a clove of garlic

Not just delicious stirred into a big bowl of Italian pasta, raw garlic contains compounds that help the immune system to fight common cold germs. When crushed or chopped, this potent plant causes a chemical reaction that releases allicin – a powerful antibacterial that’s responsible for garlic’s familiar smell.

In an ideal world, eating a few slices of garlic bread would be enough to keep us in tip-top shape. Sadly, to get the most of its flu-busting effects, you’ll have to hold your breath and swallow it raw – as the compound is only present shortly after garlic is crushed and before it’s cooked.

The brave approach is to peel a clove and pop it straight in your mouth, steeling yourself against the strong flavour. Alternatively, you can make it easier to gulp down by mincing one to two cloves and floating them in a small glass of water. Bottoms up.

Swill some echinacea

bunch of healing coneflowers and sack with dried echinacea flowers on wooden plank, herbal medicine

While the research into echinacea’s cold-preventing effects is still ongoing, there’s some evidence to suggest this flowering plant can increase the number of white blood cells in the body – which play an important role in fighting infection.

Originating in Native America, echinacea has been used as a traditional herbal remedy for more than 400 years for a variety of ailments, including scarlet fever and syphilis. As well as cleansing the blood of dead cells and debris, it’s also thought to increase the levels of properdin in the body – a chemical that stimulates some of the protective mechanisms in the immune system.

To load up, you can either take it daily in tablet form during the winter months, or buy it in a tincture – adding a couple of drops to your morning cuppa.

Set a healthy bedtime

A woman sleeping happily

It sounds obvious, but getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to boost your immune function and stay well this winter.

Just a few late nights can disrupt the protective nature of your immune system, making you vulnerable to picking up a nasty virus. That’s why it’s a good idea to get into bed earlier and set your alarm a little bit later during the colder months.

As a general rule, most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep to function properly – so make sure you’re clocking enough time under the duvet.

Get a dose of ginseng

This naturally-derived supplement has long been taken in Chinese culture to boost immune system function and encourage overall good health.

According to a study by the Centre for Immunotherapy of Cancer and Infectious Diseases at the University of Connecticut, people who took two daily capsules containing ginseng caught half as many colds as a group taking a placebo. And when they did get sick? Their symptoms lasted less than half as long.

In herbalism, Siberian ginseng is thought to be particularly good for increasing white blood cells and interleukins – proteins the immune system relies on heavily. The easiest way to get a daily dose is to swallow it down in capsule form.

Wash your hands regularly

A woman washing her hands in a sink.

While it’s easy to think washing your hands after visiting the bathroom is enough to keep your hand hygiene in check, the grim reality is cold germs can live on inanimate objects like door handles and light switches for hours. That means simply going about your daily routine and then touching your mouth area can expose you to a bout of cold and flu. To combat, keep washing your hands throughout the day with antibacterial soap. If you’re travelling, it’s wise to pack a small tube of antibacterial gel in your bag so you can protect yourself while on-the-go.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely protect yourself from being brought down by a bug this winter, but with cold and flu on the rise in offices and homes around the country, these handy tips will put you in a much stronger position to win the war against germs.

The following two tabs change content below.

The Press Association

News from the Press Association - the national news agency for the UK and Ireland

Leave a Comment!

Not a member?

You need to be a member to interact with Silversurfers. Joining is free and simple to do. Click the button below to join today!

Click here if you have forgotten your password

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!