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A woman drinking tea, helping to prevent get a cold

11 ways to stop and prevent a cold

30 Sep 2021 • 2 min read

This winter I’m not getting a cold. Say it with us. It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Now statistically speaking most of us will get at least one cold a year.

But who wants to be a statistic? It really doesn’t have to be that way.

With just a few changes to your home, hygiene and health you can stay strong and battle to keep colds at bay.

Why do we get colds?

According to the NHS, colds are caused by viruses that can be easily spread to other people.1

You’re infectious throughout your symptoms, which usually take one to two weeks to die down.

Colds are spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which are thought to live on your hands and surfaces for 24 hours.2

Can you prevent a cold when you feel it coming?

If you have a cold you can start spreading it from as early as a few days before your symptoms start right up until your symptoms finish.3

To reduce the risk of catching a cold, the advice given by the NHS is:

  • Regularly wash your hands with warm water and soap
  • Use a tissue or handkerchief to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • Make sure you dispose of used tissues as quickly as possible

The best ways to avoid catching a cold are as follows:

  • Washing your hands regularly with water and soap
  • Avoid sharing towels or household items, like glasses or cups with other people in your house
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes or nose as this is the most common way the virus can infect your body
  • Stay fit and healthy by eating well and keeping active4

9 early signs of a cold

The symptoms of a cold may usually come on gradually over a few days and can last up to two weeks.

They include:

  1. Blocked or runny nose

One of the most common symptoms is a blocked nose, which may often lead to a runny nose where the virus builds.

  1. A sore throat

Your throat may get infected and feel painful, which may lead to some pain in the throat.

  1. Headaches

As the pressure builds up around your sinuses you may experience headaches.

  1. Muscle aches

As your body works to fight off the cold virus, you may find that your body and muscles ache.

  1. Coughing

Coughing is a common symptom of a cold as your body reacts to the virus.

  1. Sneezing

Sneezing is another common symptom that can be bought on by the cold.

  1. A raised temperature

As with most viruses, you will often see a rise in your body temperature as your body fights off the virus.

  1. Pressure in your ears and face

This is usually down to sinuses being blocked and pressure building in and around your head.

  1. Loss of taste and smell

A loss of taste and smell can be a common symptom of having a virus.

This can usually take from a couple of days up until a week to return.

How to stop and prevent a cold

We have covered the symptoms of a cold, but how do you prevent one? Read our top tips for winter wellness below.

Essential tips for winter wellness

Keeping your body healthy and immune system in peak condition is essential for staying well during winter. Here’s how.

  1. Keep active

Exercising regularly can help boost your immune system and make you less likely to succumb to the germs in the air.

You can keep your immune system ticking over with as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day five days a week equating to 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

Examples of moderate-intensity activities:4

  • Brisk walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Bike riding
  • Dancing
  • Tennis or doubles tennis
  • Pushing a lawnmower
  • Hiking
  • Rollerblading

Generally speaking, you can do 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, which is considered to have the same health benefits as 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

For a more intense workout you can try:5

  • Running or jogging
  • Swimming
  • Fast bike ride or hill ride
  • Walking up the stairs
  • Football, rugby, netball and hockey
  • Skipping
  • Aerobics
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial arts

8 easy ways to fit exercise into a hectic lifestyle

No time to get to the gym? Fit exercise around your busiest days with these 8 easy ways to fit exercise into a hectic lifestyle.

  1. Take targeted supplements

Supplements such as Echinacea or Pelargonium can help ease your cold.

Echinacea helps relieve symptoms of the common cold and influenza type infections, whilst Pelargonium will relieve the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold.

  1. Make sure you get enough sleep

Ideally, you’ll need to get seven or eight hours of good sleep a night to keep your immune system fighting fit.

It’s so important that you stick to a regular routine and sleeping pattern, as well as creating the right environment for a decent sleep.

That means no screen time right before you close your eyes.

Colds get passed on when you either touch the hand of someone carrying one or a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes or nose.

It can be hard to control in public places, but you can put your own prevention tactics in place at home.

  1. Sanitise surfaces

Keep all surfaces in the home clean and fresh by wiping them down with disinfectant wipes or sprays.

Bugs and germs from cold and flu can stay on surfaces for up to 48 hours, so wipe down regularly.

Your top targets should be:

  1. Kitchen surfaces
  2. Bathroom taps
  3. Toilet handles
  4. Door handles
  5. Tables

Use a disposable wipe, paper towel or kitchen roll. Don’t use reusable cloths or sponges as they’ll harbour germs.

  1. Disinfect everyday items

Wiping down surfaces isn’t enough.

Think of all the other things we touch with our hands every day in the home.

Remember to disinfect:

  1. The TV remotes
  2. Smartphones
  3. Computers and tablets
  4. Gaming controllers
  1. Boost immunity with humidity

Normally we clear mucus and germs through tiny hairs wafting them into our throat, where we swallow them.

When it’s cold though this process is slowed down giving viruses longer to dwell in your lungs potentially causing an infection.

Using a humidifier and keeping humidity levels in the home between 40 – 60 per cent can reduce the amount of time viruses survive in the air.

  1. Everyday hygiene changes to keep colds at bay

By staying vigilant you can reduce the chances of picking up germs outside the home too.

  1. Sanitise your hands

Keep sanitising or alcohol-based wipes or gel on you at all times and use regularly throughout the day.

Especially when you’re in public places.

Whenever you shake anyone’s hand, wash yours.

  1. Kick any nasty habits

Biting your nails is a sure-fire way to ingest germs into your system.

It’s very simple, just kick this bad habit and stay healthy.

  1. Avoid sharing food

This might be easier said than done, especially over Christmas, but steer clear of the buffet.

You can’t legislate for other people’s hygiene.

If you see anyone double-dipping their crisps at a Christmas party, avoid that dip.

  1. Sneeze in the crook of your elbow

We know it sounds a bit weird, but you should actually avoid sneezing into your hands as they’re a common source of germs that can be easily spread.

When to see your doctor or GP

It is thought that you should see your doctor or GP if your symptoms have not improved after three weeks.

You should also consider seeing your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms suddenly get worse
  • Your temperature is very high, or you feel hot and shivery
  • You're concerned about your child's symptoms
  • You are feeling short of breath or develop chest pain
  • You have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes, or a heart, lung or kidney condition
  • You have a weakened immune system – for example, because you're having chemotherapy
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 30 September 2021

bhupesh-panchal

Bhupesh Panchal

Author

Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019

Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
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