Prevention & Recovery

8 ways to stop a cold and the flu in its tracks

8 ways to stop a cold and the flu in its tracks

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Prevention & Recovery

8 ways to stop a cold and the flu in its tracks

Winter is just another word for cold and flu season. And try as we might to diligently wash our hands and avoid close contact with sick friends and family members, many of us will still get sick. The symptoms are painfully recognizable: scratchy throat, light-headedness, chills and maybe even a fever. We know the signs, so is there any way to stop a virus in its tracks?

"There's no cure for the common cold or flu," says Dr. Don Collins-Williams, a family physician based in Mississauga, Ont. "So the goal is to make yourself as comfortable as possible."

Should you feel yourself getting sick and developing early symptoms of the cold or flu, take the following steps to minimize your discomfort.

8 ways to stop yourself from getting sick:

1. Drink plenty of liquids
"I shall drink plenty of fluids" is practically the cold-and-flu sufferers' oath, and there's good reason for it. Maintaining a constant intake of liquids will replace any fluids lost due to fever-induced sweats or excessive mucous production, and will also help flush out toxins in the body. Warm drinks like tea or hot water and lemon can also provide temporary relief of nasal congestion.

2. Stay home
The hardest pill to swallow for the workaholics among us is the fact that staying home is always the smarter choice, even if the cold or flu is in its very early stages.

"Both the flu and common cold are contagious," says Dr. Collins-Williams, "so it's important to keep it to yourself."

Not only will you prevent your bug from being passed onto unsuspecting coworkers, but you'll also be providing your body with the best weapon it needs to defeat the illness: rest. 

3. Take over-the-counter medication
Take acetaminophen as needed to help with the headaches, pains and fever that come with the onset of a cold or flu.

"Regular acetaminophen is fine, but stay away from decongestants and cold and flu medications," says Dr. Collins-Williams. "They haven't proven to be effective, and they can cause problems for people with high blood pressure and interact with other medications."

4. Exercise
You don't need to run 10 kilometres or visit the nearest cross-fit gym, but studies have shown that doing light exercise daily will help ramp up your immune system and improve common cold symptoms. Elevating your heart rate will cause you to work up a sweat and encourage the release of toxins. A post-workout high could also improve your downtrodden mood. 

5. Moisturize
Dr. Collins-Williams recommends using a vaporizer to eliminate dry air from irritating your throat, lungs and nasal passages. You should also start using a saline spray immediately upon the first signs of a cold to help keep your nasal passages clear and open, and to help prevent a nasty post-cold sinus infection.

6. Take your vitamins
A number of vitamins and supplements have been proven useful when it comes to reducing the symptoms of a common cold. Several studies have shown that zinc supplements taken over the first five days of a cold reduced recovery time to within less than a week. Certain strains of probiotics have also been shown to improve symptoms and shorten the length of common colds by a number of days, as well as to strengthen overall immune health. And though the idea that high doses of vitamin C can prevent a cold has long been dispelled, vitamin C has been proven to help reduce the duration of cold symptoms – as has garlic, which can naturally boost your immune system.

7. Relax
A recent study has found that chronic stress increases the likelihood of developing a cold. The overproduction of cortisol that stress causes renders the immune system useless for fighting off viral infections. If you're working through a particularly stressful or hectic period, try relaxation techniques like meditation. A recent study has shown that regular meditation has also helped reduce cold symptoms and the duration of a cold.

8. Get a flu shot
Of course, the best defence against the flu is getting the flu shot, says Dr. Collins-Williams. "It's your best chance to prevent catching the flu and to lessen the symptoms should infection occur," he says. "It's important to remember that the flu can kill people."


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Prevention & Recovery

8 ways to stop a cold and the flu in its tracks