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It’s that time of year when those pesky germs spread and spread and just when you think you’ve got rid of one cold BOOM another strain takes hold of your immune system and down you go again. Learning how to protect ourselves and our immune systems is a vital skill and here I hope to give you a few tips on how to do just that.

There are more than 200 types of virus that can lead to your misery, but the most common one is the rhinovirus, which is thought to be responsible for at least 50% of colds. There is also a vast difference between a cold and a flu virus although they both begin with very similar ways.

Below is a diagram showing the differences.

So what are the symptoms, and do you have a cold or the flu?

Cold symptoms manifest with
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • sneezing
  • a cough
  • a hoarse voice
  • generally feeling unwell
  • symptoms come on gradually and last a few days and then linger for a bit.

It is vital to rest, drink plenty of fluids and healthy food and you should recover quickly. If symptoms get worse then go to the GP but generally they pass in a few days.

Flu symptoms
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • tiredness and weakness
  • a headache
  • general aches and pains
  • a dry, chesty cough
  • unable to do your normal daily activities and totally exhausted

Bed rest is essential and it should only last a week.

Consider visiting your GP if:

  • you’re 65 years of age or over
  • you’re pregnant
  • you have a long-term medical condition – such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease or a neurological disease
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, because you’re having chemotherapy or have HIV
  • you develop chest pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or start coughing up blood
  • your symptoms are getting worse over time or haven’t improved after a week


How do these germs spread ?


Well, when we sneeze it can produce over 40,000 droplets in the air and the louder the sneeze the further and faster they travel. So when your mum said always to carry a tissue and put it over your nose when you sneezed, she knew what she was talking about. If we all took better precautions the spread of these germs wouldn’t be so bad.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reported on why we sneeze in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. They concluded that we need to reset our nasal cavity every so often… and we do that by sneezing.

Plus, its better out than in as they say as you could do yourself an injury. Head and neck surgeon Alan Wild, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine said “I wouldn’t recommend suppressing a sneeze by any method”. Although rare an injury can occur and the body is sneezing due to trying to expel irritants out of the body. Go ahead sneeze but please do it in to a tissue.

Old wives tales…

Feed a cold, starve a fever?

A study in the journal Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology suggests that feeding a cold actually does have its good points. Eating increases the levels of gamma interferon, an immune response in which good cells (called killer T cells) destroy the cells that have been invaded by pathogens. This is a process necessary for ridding the body of infections. Good nutrition — in addition to staying well-hydrated — during a cold may speed up recovery time, not to mention make you feel better during a cold siege.(she

However, starving or fasting whilst suffering from the flu is really not a good idea as you need to keep your nutritional strength up. With a fever you may not feel like eating and have a low appetite so ensure that you drink plenty and stay hydrated.


Chicken Soup…

According to research in the journal Chest, chicken soup is beneficial during illnesses. The hot vapour from chicken soup promotes airway secretions by increasing the temperature of the airways. It has a calming effect on inflamed throats, as long as it is not boiling hot, plus it helps with hydration because of the high liquid content. The protein of the chicken and the nutrients from the vegetables can nourish the immune system so be sure to add lots of healthy veg. Above all soup is a go to food when ill as its easily digestible and we use it as comfort food.

good recipe link above, be sure to check your stock cubes don’t contain too much salt and remember you can add all sorts of veg to it.


Although echinacea does not fight off colds its is a good preventative so if you aren’t suffering now it maybe wise to start taking some now. Echinacea has a complex mix of active substances, some of which are said to be antimicrobial, while others are believed to have an effect on the immune system. Scientists from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy reviewed over a dozen studies on the effects of echinacea on people’s risk of catching a cold. They concluded that echinacea could reduce a person’s chances of catching a cold by approximately 58 percent. They found that the herbal remedy also reduces the length of time a cold lasts by 1.4 days.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries naturally contain A, B, and C and stimulate the immune system. Israeli researchers found that the complex sugars in elderberries support the immune system in fighting cold and flu.

How to make your own syrup

  • 2/3 cup dried black elderberries (about 3 ounces)
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh or dried ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves or clove powder
  • 1 cup raw honey (we get from our farmer’s market)
  1. Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add honey!)
  2. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
  3. Discard the elderberries (or compost them!) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 1 cup of honey and stir well.
  4. When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a quart sized mason jar or 16 ounce glass bottle of some kind.
  5. Ta Da! You just made homemade elderberry syrup! Store in the fridge and take daily for its immune boosting properties. Some sources recommend taking only during the week and not on the weekends to boost immunity.
  6. Standard dose is ½ tsp to 1 tsp for kids and ½ Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine we are taught to live in accordance with the seasons. Therefore, if its cold out WRAP UP! Winer is yin, it is dark, slow and cold in its energy and associated with the kidneys which contain our essence so it is important to rest. Winter isn’t a time to over do it with exercise its more of a time to study reflection with Tai Qi or Meditation. If you would like to read more on TCM and the winter season then read the article  

Wear a scarf as due t0 the temperature continuing to fall and the winds picking up you always keep your neck covered especially the back of your neck. At the back of the neck is an acupuncture point Du14 or DaZhui and it can easily be affected by cold getting in to it causing neck pains, and within a few hours you start to feel alternating chills and fever across your entire body, maybe with some other symptoms like a low grade fever, headache or cough if it’s allowed to go deeper into the body. That’s a wind invasion.

What can you do?

Don’t share germs !

  • Wash your hands
  • Wash sufaces
  • Sneeze into a tissue and dispose
  • Eat nutritious food to feed your body
  • Take echinacea in preparation
  • Wrap up warm, wear a scarf
  • Rest, don’t go into work and spread it


If you already have a cold then why not make a honey ginger and lemon soothe. Its so easy all you do is cut up some ginger and lemon and put it together in a jar, add honey and pop in fridge. In a few days it goes all gooey and you can add some to hot water to make a tea or take a spoonful to ease a sore throat. My one is already in my fridge in preparation.

So here’s to a healthy winter to you all.





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