After more than two years of vigilance and trepidation, it’s only natural for us all to be a little COVID fatigued. But that doesn’t mean your humble garden variety colds, flus and a range of other respiratory viruses have all packed it in and headed for the hills.

As winter approaches, so too does the traditional “sick” season.

But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

We’ve put together a check list of pro tips to help you get the most out of the winter months, and give those lurgies the short shrift.

Cold comfort

The bad news is that there is no cure for the common cold. If infected, you are usually going to be sick for a week or two.

The good news is that there are a range of practices you can put in place to help ease the symptoms and get you back on your feet faster.

Things that help fight a cold

Rest up – Get some rest, take that sick day or two and stay in bed. It’s amazing how quickly you can knock a cold on the head by resting early when symptoms present. Sleep helps heal you faster.

Stay hydrated – Drink lots of water, juice, herbal teas and clear broth. Warm water with lemon and honey can help loosen congestion. Ice chips are another good idea and can soothe a sore throat. Avoid dehydrating drinks with alcohol, caffeine and sugar. That’s right, give that coffee a miss!

Gargle – A teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water is a great gargle to help relieve that sore throat. If you want to step it up a little, you can try an over-the-counter iodine gargle which has strong antiseptic properties and fights viruses and bacteria. Sore throat lozenges can also provide temporary relief.

Humidify the air – It’s tough to sleep when your nasal passages are so blocked. But a humidifier can make a real difference at night and keep moisture in a room during the day to help loosen congestion.

Over the counter medications – You can try decongestants, antihistamines and pain relievers that may or may not blanket your symptoms but they won’t reduce the length of a cold or flu. Be sure to read the packets carefully and take only as directed. Be vigilant not to overuse in a 24-hour period or mix drugs that contain the same or conflicting ingredients.

You can also try – steam showers and spicy food both help to loosen nasal congestion and can be a pleasant way to ease symptoms.

Things that don’t help fight a cold

Antibiotics – they fight bacteria and are no use against viruses.

Smoking – if you’re a smoker, do yourself a favour and put them away, at least while you’re sick. They will only further irritate your throat and lungs.

Things you can try to help fight a cold

Vitamin C – there is evidence supporting the notion that regular uptake of Vitamin C may help reduce the length of a cold before infection. This is true particularly for people in high risk environments. There is little or no evidence supporting its value once infected.

Echinacea – The jury is out on this one as well with some studies showing it can help when taken in the early stages of infection and for 7-10 days thereafter. But it can interact with some other drugs so please check with your Doctor before using.

Zinc – has also turned up mixed results with some studies suggesting zinc lozenges or syrup can shorten the length of a cold by a day if taken with 24-48 hours of the first symptoms. But it can have potentially harmful side effects so again, please talk to your Doctor before using.

Fever pitch

Flus are often accompanied by a fever and most of the same advice applies in terms of caring for a flu or a cold.

But forget the old adage “feed a cold, starve a fever”! Your body needs fuel to fight any infection.

Lay off the exercise if you are running a temperature though. It’s okay to work out if you have a cold but if you’re running a fever, your body doesn’t need the extra stress.

Call your doctor

Most people won’t need to consult with their doctor to handle a common cold but complications can arise.

You should book an appointment if:

  • Your symptoms last longer than two weeks
  • Your symptoms worsen or you present with new symptoms which could indicate a new infection.
  • You have a sore throat or fever higher than 37.8C for longer than three days, or if your temperature rises above 39.4C
  • You are suffering intense chest pain or shortness of breath

Need an appointment with a doctor? Start here.