I have a bad cold and cough. Which means I am highly infectious. We all work in an environment where there is central heating and we are in close proximity to one another. What can you do to stop yourself catching my germs?
Obviously, not come to class.
But what else can you do?
Well, learn about colds...
Q.What is a common cold?
A. The common cold, or coryza to give it its medical name, is a virus infection resulting in the inflammation of the lining of the nose and throat. This lining is known as a mucous membrane, which will produce `mucus' in response to the attack by viruses. Almost 200 viruses are known to cause the symptoms of the common cold, which is why we have not been able to develop a specific anti cold vaccine.
The symptoms of the common cold are a stuffy and/or runny nose, sneezing, which sometimes can be acccompanied by a slight fever, watery eyes, headache, sore throat and feeling slightly unwell. An ordinary cold usually lasts about 5 to 7 days, but can spread to other parts producing laryngitis, sinusitis, bronchitis or otitis media (ear infection). A simple common cold rarely leaves any serious after effects.
Q. Why do we get more colds in the winter months?
A. The cold viruses are not necessarily more numerous in the winter, but we are more prone to picking them up, because we tend to spend more time indoors, so that we are closer to each other. An infected person spreads the cold viruses, from their mouth and nasal passages, by coughing or sneezing tiny droplets, which are laden with these viruses into the air and onto unsuspecting victims close by! A single sneeze can produce upto 5,000 droplets of mucus, travelling up to a distance of 13 feet!
During the winter, the air we breathe indoors is very dry due to heating and lack of ventilation. This dry air reduces the mucous membrane's ability to resist infection, and so we become more susceptible to attack by viruses and other organisms in the atmosphere.
Schoolchildren are particularly prone to catching colds, as they are exposed to many viruses for the first time, against which they have not yet developed any immunity. As they grow older, their immunity protects them, so that a young adult may only get two or three colds a year, and an old person gets one or none at all.
Q. What is the best way of treating a cold, and can colds be prevented?
A. There is no cure for the common cold, and it will be gone within a week. However, some people feel better using a simple cough linctus, decongestants or painkillers such as aspirin or paracetamol. Some people swear by such remedies as honey and lemon drinks, hot toddies etc, which may ease the symptoms but don't actually alter the course of the cold. Basically, you should just keep warm, drink plenty fluids and eat light meals. There is no scientific reason to "Feed a cold and starve a fever!" With regard to preventing colds, the claim that Vitamin C is effective in large doses has not been scientifically proven.
Q. How does `flu' differ from a cold.
A. The symptoms of `flu' are similar to the common cold, but they are also more severe. There is a higher fever, along with marked aching of the muscle and bones. You feel weaker and more ill with flu, and it takes a bit longer to return to normal. It is not uncommon to feel quite weak and easily tired after a bout of flu. This is known as `post viral fatigue'.
Flu can be a serious condition especially in the elderly or in those with other illnesses. It can also kill, for example the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 killed millions of young adults around the world!
Then learn about protctive measures...
2. Don't be a sinner.
Smoking and drinking may be enjoyable for many of us, but they won't help you fight off an infection. Smoking means you're more likely to get a sore throat, while wine and beer will attack your liver and it will take longer for any germs to leave the body. This site even suggests Red Bull!
- Find tips on how to stop smoking
3. Chill out.
Stress is a huge factor in staying healthy, so if you can cut out the things that get you all knotted up, then you're less likely to catch a cold.
- More information on stress and how to beat it
4. Go for a curry.
Turmeric and ginger are both common ingredients in curries and research has shown that they can help to boost your immune system and protect against infections.
- Try one of our great curry recipes
5. Make a fruit cocktail.
If eating lots of fruit sounds like hard work, why not rustle up a fruit juice. Oranges, limes, strawberries, blackberries and apples are all packed with immune-boosting nutrients and can really help fight off sniffles.
- Try one of our non-alcoholic cocktails
6. Have a wash.
We're not saying you smell! Washing your hands is one of the best and easiest ways of stopping viruses getting to you.
- Get expert advice about hand washing
7. Get up and out.
We're not suggesting that you start training for the London Marathon, but getting regular exercise, even if it's a 20-minute walk to the shops, will help. Working your body increases its natural defences and reduces the chances of getting ill.
- More easy exercise tips on goodtoknow.co.uk
8. Think like the French.
Garlic can be a real turn-off to some people, but it is one of the most powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral nutrients around. If you find the taste too strong, you can always take it in tablet form.
- More recipes and tips for garlic
9. Get some sleep.
While you're under the duvet and your brain is having a rest, your body is using the time to recharge and fight off any infections.
- More information on insomnia and tips for a good night's sleep
10. Watch a funny movie.It has been proved that laughter raises the levels of immune-boosting hormones in the blood, that help to fight infections. Laughter really is the best medicine.
11. Take Echinacea
The popular herbal remedy can cut the risk of catching a cold by more than half according to a review of 14 studies published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
12. Drink Hot Honey And Lemon
The best treatment for a cold is to drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol every four hours.
13. Avoid Shaking Hands
It is not coughs and sneezes that spread diseases but hands. The commonest way of catching a cold from someone is by shaking hands with them and then rubbing your eyes or mouth.
14. Buy A Scarf
The nose dries out in low temperatures or air-conditioning and respiratory viruses become trapped and start to reproduce. Wrapping up warm, especially protecting the nose, can stop you catching a cold. (Is that why Mary wore a scarf the other day?)
A blocked nose
TRY THIS A nasal aspirator for newborns and an aromatic rub for older babies.
HOW THEY HELP Babies breathe through their nose, so when it gets blocked, it can cause problems with feeding and sleeping. To help clear their nostrils, try the Baby Nose-Clear Nasal Aspirator. You place it against the end of your baby's nose and gently suck mucus out through the tube into a sealed chamber, which helps to clear her airways. For children aged 6 months and upwards, try massaging Aromakids Bunged-up Bertie's Aromatic Gel onto her chest and under her nose - it contains cold-blitzing, decongesting eucalyptus and menthol oils that help to clear your little one's stuffy nose.
According to the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, aromatic oils such as menthol and eucalyptus have been used for hundreds of years to treat cold symptoms, such as a bunged-up nose.
WHERE TO GET THEM The Baby Nose-Clear Nasal Aspirator, £6.99, from Tesco, Mothercare, Boots and www.4little1.com. Aroma-kids Bunged-up Bertie's Aromatic Gel, £3.69 for 50ml, from www.hippychick.com or call 01278 434440 for stockists.
A tickly cough
TRY THIS A homeopathic cough syrup.
HOW IT HELPS Nelsons
Sootha Cough Syrup contains the homeopathic remedy bryonia, which is good for dryness in the throat and coughs. Homeopathic remedies work by treating like with like, so the treatment given is similar in substance to the illness, only in minute doses. The syrup also contains soothing honey and lemon for an added vitamin-C boost. You can also make a soothing drink by adding honey and lemon to hot water and leaving it to cool. Honey isn't suitable for babies under 1.
WHERE TO GET IT
Nelsons Sootha Cough Syrup, £4.20 for 150ml, is available from Holland & Barrett, Sainsbury's, Superdrug, Boots and most pharmacies.
A sore throat
TRY THIS Soothing lozenges.
HOW THEY HELP Comvita Propolis Lozenges combine propolis - a substance made by bees, said to be a natural antibiotic - with honey made from flowers of the New Zealand manuka bush that is renowned for its healing qualities. One recent study showed propolis extracts may help protect against colds and even shorten how long they last.
WHERE TO GET THEM Comvita Propolis Lozenges, £3.25 for 75g, from health food stores nationwide, are suitable from 2 years. For info, call 0845 658 5858.
A chesty cough
TRY THIS Chicken soup.
HOW IT HELPS Giving children a bowl of chicken soup when they're ill is more than just comfort food - it helps to thin mucus while nourishing them at the same time. A team from the University of Nebraska Medical Center also found that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties. Blended chicken soup can be given to babies once they're weaned, from about 6 months onwards.
WHERE TO GET IT Never give a ready-made adult version to a young baby or child, as it's likely to be high in salt. Try making your own chicken soup by dicing some chicken and lightly frying with a chopped onion and carrot. Peel and chop a potato, add to the chicken with 1pt of water. Boil for 15 minutes then blend and serve warm but not hot.
A runny nose, sneezes and watering eyes
TRY THIS A homeopathic remedy.
HOW IT HELPS The homeopathic remedy Allium cepa is said to be good for colds that are accompanied by sneezing, watering eyes and a runny nose. ‘Allium cepa is an excellent remedy for colds that tend to come on in cold, wet weather. Lots of sneezing is usually the first telltale sign,' says homeopath Rebecca Wells, author of Neal's Yard Remedies Homeopathy (£9.99, Aurum). Although homeopaths say it's suitable for newborns, you'll probably find it easier to give to older babies. Simply crush one tablet and add to your child's milk, or dab it around her gum area. Repeat the dosage every four to eight hours.
WHERE TO GET IT Neal's Yard
Remedies Allium cepa, £4.75 for 125 tablets of 30c potency, is available from Neal's Yard Remedies stores around the UK. Call 0845 262 3145 for stockists or
A wheezy chest
TRY THIS Aromatic oil.
HOW IT HELPS Scotch pine essential oil is great for opening up the airways and easing chest infections and breathing. For babies from 3 months to 2 years, dilute one drop of pine oil in a teaspoon of sweet almond oil before adding to a warm bath. For children aged 2 and over, use up to three drops in a teaspoon of carrier oil.
If your child has sensitive skin, fill the sink with very hot water and add the essential oil. ‘This will create a soothing vapour without risking a reaction to her sensitive skin,' says Cath Kay, herbalist for Neal's Yard Remedies in Glasgow. You could also try a plug-in vaporiser, such as Karvol, £5.99, from supermarkets.
If your child has breathing difficulties or anything more than mild wheeziness, seek medical help immediately.
WHERE TO GET IT Most heath food stores sell Scotch pine essential oil.