Winter Wellness: How to combat coughs, cold and flu
The days are getting colder, the nights are getting longer, and everyone is bracing themselves for coughs, colds, the flu and any other bug that might get passed around. During the autumn and winter, a lot of people accept getting ill as an inevitability. However, there’s a lot that you can do during the season to stay well. You can take steps to look after yourself, and even access a range of services that will help you to avoid a trip to your GP.
A few smart moves can help you to avoid getting ill or make you feel better if you do happen to come down with something. Try these tips for cold and flu prevention to stay well through the winter
Who Needs a Flu Vaccination?
Having the flu is certainly not something that anyone wants to suffer through. However, for most people, they’re going to feel horrible for a few days but recover without any complications. Not everyone belongs to this group, though, and those people should have the flu vaccination.
Our expert pharmacist says that: “People considered more at risk from the effects of flu include those aged over 65, pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems and those with an underlying health condition such as respiratory disease or long-term heart disease. If any of these apply to you, then you’ll be eligible to receive the flu vaccination from the NHS.”
Young children are also eligible for a free flu vaccine, which is given as a nasal spray to children aged 2 and 3, as well as primary school children. Adults normally receive the flu vaccine through an injection. You can have your NHS flu vaccine when you visit your GP surgery, or from a local pharmacy offering the service. Pregnant women may also be able to receive it from their midwifery service. As the pharmacist says, “The vaccination does not provide a 100% guarantee that you’ll avoid getting the flu, but it does make it much less likely. Even if you were to catch it later, the effects of the flu will likely be diminished compared to if you had it before the vaccination.”
Other Ways to Stay Well
Even if you’re not eligible for a free flu vaccination, there are ways to stay well and either avoid getting ill or survive through your illness without feeling too bad.
Although it can be tempting to make an appointment with your doctor when you’re not feeling too good, it’s often not necessary when you have a cough or cold, or even the flu. Taking care of yourself can help you to feel better, so a trip to your GP isn’t necessary. The best way to treat the flu is usually to try and treat it at home first, rather than possibly spreading it to others. There are times when you might need medical attention, such as when you’re having trouble retaining fluids.
Pharmacy services can be invaluable when you’re battling against a cough or sniffle. Pharmacists are trained to dispense medication and to offer advice on medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter. They can recommend the best vitamins to take to give your immune system a helping hand, as well as which OTC medicines can help you to feel better, and how to prevent cold and flu. Our expert pharmacist recommends “a strong intake of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, zinc and iron from your diet”. You might also choose to take vitamin supplements if you think that you’re not getting enough of these essential nutrients from your food.
Your pharmacist can also recommend medication to help relieve the symptoms of colds, coughs and flu symptoms. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can both be useful for cold and flu treatment, and a range of cold and flu medications are available that contain either of these. However, be careful that you’re not using several different products that contain the same medication at the same time. For example, many cold remedies contain paracetamol so avoid taking other paracetamol products simultaneously.
If you want to explore natural and home remedies for cold and flu symptoms, your pharmacist can help you with these too. For example, products containing menthol and other plant oils can help to relieve congestion. Finally, your pharmacist can help if you’re not sure whether to see your doctor.
Sometimes it’s the simple things that can help you to stay well too. Getting plenty of sleep and drinking lots of fluids will boost your immune system to keep bugs away and help you to feel better if you do become ill. Drinking plenty of fluids ensures you won’t get dehydrated, and it can help to thin out mucus. Sleeping well should also help to improve your general wellness and support your body in its recovery.
These steps can also make it easier to prevent catching any coughs, colds or the flu in the winter. It’s also a good idea to help prevent the spread of germs with frequent handwashing, throwing away tissues, and keeping coughs and sneezes to yourself.