Warding off winter chills

Christmas is around the corner. You are busy shopping and preparing for the festive season. It is chilly and damp outside and you cannot keep warm. Before long, you are sniffling and coughing and are battling with a cold.

Colds are one of the most common ailments of the winter months. Almost 90 per cent of adults who took part in a recent study reported suffering from a cold or flu at least once or twice a year.

A common cold is often underestimated but should not be neglected, warns world renowned naturopath, author and broadcaster Jan de Vries, who has lectured in Galway. It can lead to inflammation and infection in the upper respiratory tract and is often accompanied by nasal congestion.

“There are many different causes of a cold but very often a virus is to blame,” he says. “The nose, mouth and throat may become infected and inflamed causing swelling and sometimes such viral infection leads to a secondary infection, resulting in nasal discomfort ranging from a watery to a thick mucous discharge. In such cases, common symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, watery eyes and headaches. In many cases the effects tend to be acute and can cause considerable discomfort, albeit for a relatively short time.

“When a person’s immunity is low and their natural reserves are below par, an ordinary common cold can result in a general debility, such as a chronic infection, allergic disorders, injury to the mucous membranes and other such chronic conditions.”

Sensible care

He says sometimes a cold is accompanied by a fever but with sensible care the overall condition can soon be brought under control. Most patients will feel much better within four to seven days.

Mr de Vries states that when the weather suddenly changes from being pleasantly mild to chilly the chance of infection caused by viruses is greatly increased.

“Adapt clothing to suit such weather by changing to woollen or cotton garments. Natural materials are always preferable to artificial fibres. It is important to obtain sufficient rest, sleep and relaxation. When the body has become chilled take a hot bath or a hot footbath to get the circulation going again and so raise the body temperature.

“Try at all times to keep the nasal passages clear so that you can continue to breathe through the nose. Steam inhalation with the addition of some camomile and Po-Ho oil has a soothing effect on an inflamed respiratory tract and will aid breathing.”

Here are some ways to boost your immune system and help ward off winter colds:-

How to beat the sniffles

1. Cut out fried foods, white bread and alcohol and increase your intake of wholemeal bread, fruit, vegetables and white meat. Cut down, if not out, sweets and biscuits and avoid snacks before meals.

2. The role of exercise in the prevention of disease has been the subject of much discussion over the years. Most experts now agree that people who exercise regularly have raised levels of infection-fighting cells in their blood. A regular exercise routine, even a walk around town, may get you through the winter without a sniffle.

3. Cut down, if not out, cigarettes. Smokers reportedly have weaker immune systems than non smokers. If you cannot bear to put aside the cigarettes try to at least cut down on them. The damage to a smoker’s immune system is reversible once you stop smoking.

4. Try to reduce or manage stress. It has an adverse effect on the immune system. Traumatic experiences, such as a death in the family, moving house or being made redundant can often be a factor in illness. More minor stressors can impact on your immune system too. The likelihood of catching a cold is nearly double for a person who is suffering high stress levels.

5. Get plenty of sleep. It is essential for good health because it helps to recharge your batteries. Your body’s repair system is in full swing when you are asleep. If you do not get enough sleep your body does not have the opportunity to keep itself healthy.

Aim to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. If you find it hard to get to sleep, get into the habit of winding down with a bath, relaxing music and hot drink. Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark and comfortable and that it is neither too hot nor too cold.

6. Eat a balanced diet and proper meals if possible. Choose fresh, wholesome and organic foods and ensure you have variety. Rotate foods and experiment with new ones. This means more nutrients for the body and may help prevent food allergies or intolerances developing. Drink water. It is an essential nutrient and is best taken between meals or half an hour before meals and one hour after. Cut out caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evenings.

7. Learn to relax and spend at least 10 minutes each day unwinding. You can do this by closing your eyes and shutting out all thoughts. Try to forget the bills, work pressures, housework, family demands and concentrate solely on relaxing every part of you. You will find it instantly beneficial.

Ways to avoid getting a cold

* Wash your hands often. You can pick up cold germs easily even when shaking hands or touching doornobs or handrails

* Avoid people who are coughing or sneezing because cold viruses are quickly transmitted in this way

* If you sneeze or cough do so into a tissue and then throw it away

* Try not to touch your nose, eyes or mouth. Germs can enter your body easily by these paths.

* People tend to catch colds in crowded, humid places such as buses, schools and churches

If you catch a cold

* Try to keep your diet light. Jan de Vries recommends drinking plenty of fluids, especially fruit juices which are high in vitamin C. Eat lots of fresh vegetables.

* Drink six to eight glasses of water, juice, herbal teas or weak tea daily. This will replace fluids lost during a cold and help flush our impurities.

* Wrap up but open windows a little because the cold virus breeds in unventilated environments.

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