Six unusual ways to keep colds at bay this winter

KEEN to ward off those winter sniffles? From nookie to camomile tea, Kate Whiting rounds up some less obvious ways to avoid colds

Could chamomile tea help ward off the sniffles this winter? Picture: PA

If you work in an enclosed spare with lots of other people, use public transport, or regularly hang around with people who do, then chances are, you’re going to get at least one cold at some point this winter.

Of course, there are things that can help (or at least make us feel like we’re trying!) to ward off the germs - and that doesn’t just mean spritzing the antibacterial hand gel and popping Echinacea and vitamin C.

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Here are six less common methods for beating the seasonal sniffles.


Growing up, I had a Peter Rabbit plate with a picture of the bunny in bed that read: ‘Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made him some camomile tea’. Turns out mummy Rabbit was right - people who drink camomile tea have high levels of the anti-inflammatory hippurate, which can ease cold symptoms. Plus, the herbal drink will help you keep hydrated, which makes your body more able to fight infection.


OK, we don’t actually mean go to bed until spring, as tempting as that sounds. But this year, research at the University of California, San Francisco, found that a good night’s sleep helps us fight off infections. Those who slept for less than six hours a night were four times more likely to get ill than those who regularly got more than seven hours’ shut-eye. So turn in a little earlier each night to give your immune system a fighting chance.


Couples who have sex once or twice a week have 30 per cent greater levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A, which helps combat colds, than those who get intimate less often, according to researchers at Wilkes-Barre University in Pennsylvania. But interestingly, those who had sex three times or more, had lower levels of the cold-fighting antibody than those who abstained completely. So maybe there can be too much of a good thing.


Wonder why we’re more prone to catching flu in winter? There are a number of factors, of course (and no, it’s not merely because of a drop in temperature), but according to scientists in the US, whose study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, flu viruses love cold, dry air. These conditions dry up people’s mucus, making it harder for the body to repel particles of the influenza virus. With this in mind, a hot steamy bath might not just be soothing and warming on a cold winter’s evening - it could help keep those vital mucus functions in top bug-beating condition too.


It might seem rude, but as airborne germs can fly up to 3.5 metres when someone coughs or sneezes (according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), the easiest way to avoid them is by moving away from the person on the bus/train/desk with a cold.


Stroking a dog for 18 minutes can boost immunoglobulin A antibodies that fight infection, according to a study in the US. So what are you waiting for? But remember: a dog’s for a life, not just to help you fight colds.