Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Life Health

How to protect yourself against the sniffles

Autumn is scarcely under way but germs are already starting to spread. Katie Wright reveals how to stay well during the cold and flu season

Published 25/09/2015

Stay healthy: there’s various ways to avoid feeling ill
Stay healthy: there’s various ways to avoid feeling ill

Coughs splutters, runny nose - have you noticed how many more people are sniffling now the nights are drawing in? Heading to the pharmacy to stock up on drugs might sound like a practical idea, but there are plenty of alternative and at-home remedies that can be just as effective.

Some may seem obvious, but it's worth reminding ourselves that sometimes the simplest remedies are the best.

From sleep to supplements, these are the alternative cold and flu remedies you need to know about.


Make sure you're getting the required seven to eight hours sleep a night. Exercising regularly, cutting down on caffeine (especially in the afternoon) and alcohol will all help promote better quality sleep.

Why does it work?

Everyone knows that when you're run-down, you're more susceptible to illness, and that includes colds and flu. In one study, those who got less than seven hours sleep were three times more likely to get a cold. Plus, when you're in the midst of a cold or flu, you need extra shut-eye to combat infection, so don't fight the drowsiness - a duvet day is totally justified.


Make sure you're drinking at least three litres (women) or four litres (men) of water a day when you're sick.

Why does it work?

You need plenty of liquids in order to replace those lost due to fever and infection. Plus, if you're dehydrated, it can slow mucus production, which is needed to expel viruses.


You should be able to get enough zinc from a balanced diet, but zinc lozenges have the added benefit of killing viruses in your throat.

Why does it work?

"Aiding the functioning of your immune system, Zinc can help to protect the body against colds, flu and other common infections," explains Alex Thompson, Holland & Barrett nutritionist. "It supports the body's natural defence and repair systems, helping to battle illness. Taken when the first signs of cold and flu appear, or as a daily supplement during the winter months, it will give you an extra boost to fight infection."

Try: Natures Aid Zinc Lozenges, £3.45,


Take it in tablet form or load up on vitamin C-rich foods, like citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi fruit, red and yellow peppers and green leafy vegetables.

Why does it work?

Making sure you always consume lots of vitamin C will not only help prevent colds (particularly in cold weather), but studies have shown that a hefty dose of the vitamin C at the first sign of symptoms can help clear a cold up faster.

Try: Boots Vitamin C 1000mg, £5.99 for 60


During the winter months when it's harder to get vitamin D from sunlight, a supplement may be advisable, but no more than 25 micrograms a day.

Why does it work?

It's not exactly known why, but a British study in 2011 found that those who consumed more vitamin D experience fewer respiratory infections (including the common cold), even when they took into account other lifestyle factors. Other studies have suggested the effect is more pronounced for those deficient in vitamin D to begin with, for example, people who don't go out in the sun much.

Try: Holland & Barrett Liquid Vitamin D, £13.99 for 59ml


Add a few drops of this potent oil to a warm bath.

Why does it work?

"When cold or flu does strike, one of the most annoying symptoms can be a persistent blocked nose," says Thompson. "Known for its decongestive properties, Eucalyptus Pure Essential Oil can be added to a warm bath to help relieve the well-known bunged up feeling and sore throat so commonly associated with winter bugs."

Try: Miaroma Eucalyptus Pure Essential Oil, £4.99 for 10ml, Holland & Barrett


Brazil nuts are a very good source of selenium.

Why does it work?

"Good for boosting your immune system, selenium aids the body in defending itself against harmful bacteria that can lead to colds and flu," explains Thompson.


A traditional herbal remedy, Echinacea is available as a tablet, tea or throat spray.

Why does it work?

Well, it's debatable whether it really does work. There is some evidence that products derived from this herb can help to modestly alleviate the symptoms of the common cold, but it's probably not preventative. Try it when a cold strikes, but don't expect a complete cure.

Try: Holland & Barrett Echinacea Cold and Flu, £12.99 for 60 capsules.

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph