The cold and flu season has arrived. So here’s what you need to know about winter viruses, including how to treat them and – where possible – keep them at bay.
Many people dread catching a cold or flu during the winter months. And no wonder. A cold can make you feel miserable. The flu, on the other hand, can be truly debilitating.
Winter bugs are, however, all too common. According to the NHS, most people will have a cold this autumn or winter and some will have flu too. Both colds and flu are also common causes of a short-term cough, a reflex action that helps to clear your airways of the mucus produced by colds and flu. Exactly why cold and flu viruses are more common during the autumn and winter months isn’t clear. But we do know that these viruses are spread by droplets from someone who’s infected whenever they sneeze or cough. The droplets become airborne and can be breathed in by other people, and may also land on objects or surfaces where they can be transferred to your hands. Then when you touch your eyes or nose, the virus can enter your system.
Can you prevent a cold?
There’s no vaccine to help stop you catching a cold. The good news is a healthy lifestyle may boost your resistance to colds, so try to eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and stay as active as possible.
Other things you can do include washing your hands frequently. Also try to avoid touching your nose and eyes to stop cold and flu viruses entering your body.
Flu: how to reduce your risk
The best way to protect yourself and others against flu is to get the flu vaccine each year. Those with a high risk of complications from flu are offered a flu jab free of charge on the NHS, including:
- People aged 65 or older.
- Pregnant women.
- People with weakened immune systems or certain medical conditions (diabetes, stroke, asthma, lung disease, chronic heart, kidney or liver conditions).
- People who are very overweight (BMI of 40 or higher).
- People who live in a residential care home or other long-stay facility.
- People who are the main carers for elderly or disabled individuals.
LloydsPharmacy offer a FREE NHS flu vaccination without an appointment. For more information about flu vaccinations, speak to your Pharmacist*. If you’re not eligible for a free vaccine some of our stores also offer it privately at a small cost.
How to soothe a cold or flu
Antibiotics won’t be of any help if you have a cold or flu, as they only treat bacterial infections (colds and flu are viral infections). However there are many over-the-counter remedies available at your local LloydsPharmacy designed to offer relief from cold and flu symptoms:
Painkillers: Pain relief medicines such as paracetamol, co-codamol (paracetamol and codeine) and ibuprofen help relieve headache, muscle and sinus pain, and can help bring down a fever.
Decongestants: These help you breathe more easily by shrinking swollen tissues in the nasal passages. They are available in different forms, including tablets, sprays, drops and syrups. Vapour rubs, inhalations and nasal saline drops and sprays may also help ease congestion.
All-in-one remedies: Designed to be more convenient than taking single remedies, all-in-one cold and flu remedies contain a combination of pain relief medicines and decongestants.
Throat lozenges, gargles and sprays: There are several types of over-the counter remedies designed to relieve a sore throat caused by a cold or flu.
Cough lozenges and medicines: If you have a cough that’s been caused by a cold or flu it should clear up within three weeks without any treatment. But if a cough is particularly bothersome, your Pharmacist can recommend products such as cough medicines and lozenges that may provide temporary relief.
Also avoid feeling tired and run down by having a good diet that includes the right vitamins and minerals to maintain your immune system.
*Free flu vaccinations are funded by the NHS. England and Wales only. Subject to eligibility and availability.