As the flu season approaches, it’s not actually the flu, or any of the nastier infections that cause most people to call in sick to work or school. Instead, the majority of sick days are down to the common cold.
It’s estimated by the NHS that 22 million school days are missed every year due to colds – not to mention the work days parents take off to look after their ailing children. Most colds take around three to five days to recover from and spread easily through coughs and sneezes. Disgustingly, a single sneeze can travel as far as five metres.
[Related: Boost your immune system this autumn]
Adults are likely to catch between two and four colds a year and children, whose immune systems are less developed (and who play in close contact with each other, spreading germs) can struggle through up to 10.
And though you can be vaccinated against, flu, the two hundred or so different viruses that cause coughs and colds have no inoculation.
The best you can do is prepare your immune system for the sniffles that come with the autumn and winter seasons. That means eating healthily, with plenty of fruit and veg, taking supplements if required (though these don’t work for everyone), such as vitamin C, zinc, garlic and Echinacea. And make sure you wash your hands regularly, especially if you use public transport regularly or work with children.
A study into vitamin D, out this week, has suggested that taking it as a supplement in the winter months will not fend off colds, but anecdotal evidence suggests getting vitamin D naturally from sunlight can help boost your mood, which may help to keep you healthy. So wrap up warm and head out on your lunch break.