Beat that Cold!


The common cold. Powerful enough to wipe out Martians in H.G. Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds’ but not enough to earn a colleague’s sympathy… Here at Back in Shape, though, we’re sympathetic enough to share our top tips on keeping them at bay. Colds, that is, not Martians…

"Exercises, exercises, see me do my exercises…"
Maybe you already know how moderate exercise helps prevent illness. As little as 60 – 90 minutes per day vastly increases your chances of staying fit in the first place. However, if you’ve caught a cold – and especially if you have a fever – forget it! Exercising with a high temperature can raise your body heat to the point of exhaustion.

"It’s alive! It’s aliiiiiiive!"
A great many of the most-prevalent cold viruses live for hours and hours – days in fact! Most spread rapidly through physical contact, which means places that a lot of people touch are likely to harbour, breed and pass on germs. In particular, be wary of:

  • Remote controls, telephones, keyboards, light switches
  • Door handles, buttons on trains, handrails on staircases and escalators, etc.
  • Cloth handkerchiefs, toothbrushes, coffee cups, knives, forks and spoons
  • Towels – especially when damp

Don’t Touch:
Your eyes, mouth and nose are like a big old welcome mat for viruses. When illness runs amok in your neck of the woods, wash your hands more often and touch your face less! You may not know you’re doing it but adults – on average – touch their faces once every four minutes!

Winter is Coming:
When the weather turns, of course, we tend to spend a bit more time indoors… which is only a problem for colds if you have a central heating system or the like. These tend to dry not only the air but also – ugh – your mucus membranes! These are the first line of defence against colds, so using a humidifier, or keeping plants around the house, helps to keep them working.

"All that glistens is not cold":
Sometimes the symptoms of a cold are simply evidence of your body fighting the illness. In some cases, they’re best left to it. For instance, a fever is usually the body’s way of getting your temperature up to 85 degrees or more. This makes it harder for the virus to survive. Taking medication may relieve the symptom but prolong the illness. Check with a GP if you’re in any doubt.

Cup of Tea?
A nice cup of tea can do more harm than good, regrettably! Whilst they’re no doubt comforting, anything that contains dairy products – milky tea or coffee, chocolate, cheese, ice cream, etc., can cause those industrious little mucus membranes to gunk up – and worsen your symptoms.

Worse News…
Cigarettes and alcohol are a hindrance as well. Whilst the latter slows down your immune system’s response, the former wreaks havoc on small hairs – called cilia – which are busy holding germs off in those ever-busy mucus membranes. Just one quick fag can stop the cilia working for as long as 40 minutes.

Old Wives’ Tales:
Despite what you may have heard, keeping your feet warm and not going outside with wet hair won’t stop you getting a cold! And this thing about feeding a cold and starving a fever? Also makes no difference; nor the other way around, funnily enough. However, certain classics do seem to have scientific merit: inhale steam, drink plenty of fresh water or fruit juice, take it easy for a few days… And yes, eat chicken soup!

"Come on in, the water’s lovely…"
Taking a long, luxurious soak in the bath, or relaxing in the sauna, is great for fighting colds. As you already know, a warm body is quite unpleasant for the virus and the steam from theses places loosens mucus and decongests, whilst also moisturising your body.

And if that isn’t enough, your sweat – get ready for this – contains substances that drain bacteria of their strength and make your immune system more effective! Some research shows that people who sauna two times a week are half as likely to get sick in the first place. Take a look at our sheet Sweat & Tears.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G:
There’s an awful lot of information around telling us which vitamins help ward off the dreaded lurgy! Vitamin C is still much championed, although it’s important to take this with food to counteract its acidity. Also, vitamin A and B-complex vitamins are useful in the right doses, while zinc is said to give your antibodies a wake-up call and get the infection-busting white-blood cells circulating!

Are You What You Eat?
Apparently you are, which leaves us fearful that one of the team here could soon turn in to a Malteser… Meanwhile, here are the foods that, consumed on a regular basis, could boost your immune system and help fight off cold viruses:
Berries: Blueberry, Cranberry, Raspberry, Strawberry
Chilli peppers
Tea (Black, green, ginger, oolong)

Back in Shape cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of any action or inaction based on its Newsletter or Info Sheets. If you have any doubts or concerns over medical and health issues, our best advice is always to pop in to see us, visit your GP or call NHS Direct on 111 to discuss your health.