It's that time of year when 'coughs and sneezes spread diseases', or so they say...
Sometimes there is just no avoiding an infection and a course of antibiotics, particularly for more vulnerable members of our communities, such as young children, those with long-term medical conditions and the elderly. But there is much we can do to boost our immunity naturally, reduce mucus and make ourselves feel a little brighter this Winter.
1) Become a Flu Fighter
Flu vaccinations are advisable for those over 60 or with a medical condition that makes them more vulnerable, such as a heart condition. Carers and family of those in this category may also be eligible for a free flu jab on the NHS, so book yours today. It's available for all 2-4 year old children as a nose spray.
2) Get a Good Night's Sleep
A blocked nose is always much worse at night. It can make breathing difficult, and cause frequent waking. A saline spray can go some way towards keeping the airways clear, and another soothing approach is to use steam inhalations to help everyone get a good night's rest.
We naturally need more sleep during the darker months, so get an early night and drift off easily with the help of a warm bath, soothing massage or herbal tea. Getting the right amount of sleep will help support your immune system to do its job.
3) Keep Your Bowels Moving
Many people don't realise that constipation can be a factor when it comes to reduced immune function. A sluggish digestive system caused by food stagnating in the intestines can eventually lead to toxic build up, poor elimination and increased formation of mucus.
Drinking more water, and eating foods which contain plenty of natural fibre (such as seasonal greens and fresh fruit) will increase the frequency of bowel movements.
4) Wash Your Hands!
Germs that cause coughs and colds are easily spread and can survive on surfaces. Simply washing your hands more often will kill them and prevent spread of infection. Change your hand towels frequently too. It's a really poweful and easy way to protect yourself.
5) Spice Up your Diet
Naturopaths advise that chilli peppers are high in immune boosting vitamin C and anti-inflammatory vitamin A (essential for healthy mucus membranes.) Their peppery heat has the added bonus of stimulating secretions that can help clear congestion from the nasal passages and lungs.
Garlic, oregano, turmeric, onions and ginger should also be eaten freely. Try spicing up fruit with cloves or nutmeg and cinammon as all of these foods have powerful anti-bacterial properties which can help keep winter bugs at bay. So get cooking up a curry or warming stew today!
It's also a good idea to buy a good multi-vitamin at this time of year.
6) Herbal Teas
Camomile or mint tea with honey will help soothe your throat and clear phlegm, but be wary of essential oils as they can irritate the airways.
7) Get Plenty of Fresh Air
Many people spend too much time indoors during the winter months. Getting out and about in the fresh air can do everyone the power of good. There's no need to fear 'catching cold' providing you wrap up warm and you'll soon notice an improvement in your mood too.
A bracing walk is one of the best ways to blow away the cobwebs and dry out mucus. White blood cells, (vital for the proper function of your immune system) need a good supply of oxygen to function effectively. Fresh air opens up your lungs and increases blood flow, meaning that any bugs and toxins circulating around your system will be flushed out much more quickly than if you spent 9 hours a day cooped up indoors. Try a walk during your lunch hour.
* Remember that antibiotics are not appropriate for minor viral infections, but you should always seek medical advice if your symptoms continue or worsen.
A version of this post was first published on Hayley Goleniowska's column on Special Needs Jungle