There is still no cure for a cold but scientists have found plenty of ways to avoid the winter misery of coughs and sneezes.
During a lifetime, the average person suffers from about 200 colds — each one lasting about nine days. That works out at a staggering five years of runny noses, hacking coughs and scratchy throats.
But, while there is still no cure for the common cold, you can take steps to minimise the misery.
Rays of hope
We all need vitamin D to support our immune systems, so keep your levels up by getting outside daily and eating oily fish and eggs — or cheat with supplements like SunVit-D3.
Happy people get fewer colds — and loved-up couples even less. Those who make love once or twice a week produce 30 per cent more immunoglobulin A cells — viral antibodies — than those who don't. Even just seeing your friends is a help.
"Social bonding triggers the release of endorphins, the body's feel-good chemicals, and increases the number of antibodies that help fight off disease," explains Boots pharmacist from UK, Angela Chalmers. And your immunity is actually increased by being exposed to other people's viruses.
"If you hide yourself away, your immune system becomes less tolerant of germs and you pick up the first cold going," adds Angela.
Food for thought
Sugar can suppress the immune system, making us more vulnerable to viruses, says a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
So limit your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread. But enjoy as much chicken soup as you like — Stephen Rennard, a pulmonary specialist at the University of Nebraska, found this traditional winter warmer can reduce inflammation by blocking the movement of white blood cells.
And like any food, it's even more effective if you add heaps of fresh garlic, which can act as a powerful antioxidant, antifungal and antibiotic — keeping colds at bay and even fighting off staphylococcus infections. (But because garlic can interact with some medications, check with your pharmacist if you plan to eat large amounts.)
People who exercise for at least five days a week cut their chances of coming down with a cold by about 45 per cent, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Cold germs are spread by contact, and it's thought that eight out of 10 colds could be prevented by simply washing our hands regularly, ideally for at least 15 seconds, with soap and hot water. Think hygiene in the bathroom, too.
"Storing family toothbrushes in the same container spreads colds and flu germs," warns Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation.
"Use antibacterial sprays and wipes on door handles, banisters, toilet flush handles etc, because cold and flu viruses can live on these hot spots for up to 48 hours," adds Dr Lisa Ackerley, professor of environmental health at the University of Salford. (Michelle O'Connor/The Independent)