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Preventing and Treating Colds & Flus

Summer is finished and we’re slowly approaching the dreaded cold and flu season, which we all know can have a very big impact on your training. If you have a cold or flu, you’ll be feeling tired, fatigued, achy, you’d have a runny nose and cough, and just generally unpleasant. No one wants to train under those conditions.

So I’ve devoted this article to helping you keep well and evade these unwanted and avoidable illnesses.

But first, in order to properly treat it, you’ll need to know which of the two you’re dealing with – here are some key facts about cold and flu that will help you identify and deal with each.

Symptoms [1]

COLD Symptoms:

come on gradually

mainly affect your nose and throat

are fairly mild, so you can still get around and are usually well enough to go to work

FLU Symptoms:

come on quickly

usually include a headache, fever and aching muscles

make you feel too unwell to continue your usual activities

Prevention Methods

-Does Vitamin C Stop Colds?

Despite common belief, research has found no evidence that vitamin C prevents colds. Vitamin C might prevent colds in people exposed to extend periods of intense physical activity, such as marathon runners or skiers, but not in general population. [2]

-Does Echinacea reduce cold risk?

The review found that trials looking at whether Echinacea prevents colds showed positive, but non-significant, results. [3]

-Will Zinc put off a cold?

If you take a zinc supplement within 24 hours of the symptoms first starting, it will speed up recovery from a cold and lessen the severity of symptoms in healthy people. As the zinc lozenges formulation has been widely studied and there is a significant reduction in the duration of cold at a dose of = 75 mg/day, for those considering using zinc it would be best to use it at this dose throughout the cold. [4]

Other Methods

Natural remedies for colds and flu go well beyond herbs and supplements. Good lifestyle and hygiene habits are proven to reduce your risk of getting sick. Here are some easy practices you can employ right away:

Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Make sure to cough into your sleeve instead of your hand. Sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. You’ll reduce the chances of passing your germs onto someone else.

Wash your hands. Washing with soap for the time it takes to sing two rounds of ‘Happy Birthday’ – or rubbing your hands with an alcohol-based gel with enough gel to rub hands together for 30 seconds – are two of the best ways of protecting yourself from cold and flu germs, and from spreading them.

Sleep consistently. The human body recovers at a much faster rate when at complete rest. To ensure that your sleep is of good quality and your body’s making the most of it, try to sleep at a consistent time each day, getting a good amount of hours, letting your mind relax before you hit the pillow, and saving any caffeine consumption for after you wake up.

Eat ‘phyto’ foods. Phyto foods are foods rich in phytochemicals, which are protective and disease-preventive chemicals found in vegetables, beans, fruits, herbs and whole grains. Aim to get 5-9 servings of fruit and veg each day.

Exercise regularly. Although there’s not one pinpointed reason for why, it’s undeniable that people who exercise regularly (even just daily walking) are more defended against illnesses as a whole! The immune system just works a lot better in those who exercise regularly. More on this in a moment.

Learn to manage stress. Yep. Once again I’m going to tell you to lower your stress levels. Find the place where you’re most relaxed (on a walk, in your bed, listening to music, driving, etc) and spend just 20 or 30 minutes there not thinking objectively – it may seem silly at first but it’s worth it for a number of reasons!

The Most Bang for Your Buck

We’re always in search for the best medication to help us avoid illness and recover ASAP, yet we ignore the one that is free, easy to take, has an immediate effect and you don’t need a GP to get for you.

Its name? Exercise.

There are hundred and hundreds of studies that record the benefits of good physical fitness and regular exercise have on your immune system, and here’s one I just picked up from a quick google search:

A good level of fitness can nearly half your chances of getting a cold, and can also lessen the effects of the infection. [5]

To stay healthy, adults aged 19-64 should try to be active daily and should do:

At least 150 minutes of ‘moderate aerobic activity’ every week, and

Strength exercise on two or more days a week that works all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

What counts as moderate aerobic activity?

Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most people include:

walking fast or jogging

water aerobics

riding a bike on level ground or with few hills

doubles tennis

pushing a lawn mower

hiking

skateboarding

rollerblading

volleyball

basketball

Moderate activity will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate level is if you can still talk, but you can’t sing the words to a song.

What counts as vigorous activity?

There is good evidence that vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity. Just make sure you save this type of exercise for when you’re NOT already ill!

Examples of activities that require vigorous effort for most people include:

running

swimming fast

riding a bike fast or on hills

singles tennis

football

rugby

skipping rope

hockey

aerobics classes

gymnastics

martial arts

Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

What counts as strength exercise?

Muscle-strengthening exercises are counted in repetitions and sets. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like a bicep curl or a sit-up. A set is a group of repetitions done without a break.

For each strength exercise, try to do:

at least one set

eight to 12 repetitions in each set

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it’s at home or in the gym. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities for most people include:

lifting weights

working with resistance bands

doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups

heavy labour, such as digging, sawing and carrying heavy objects

Summary

If you want to stay clear of these illnesses that so many get stuck with over the Winter period, key points about how to protect yourself and avoid being ill, so now it’s just your decision if you going to this follow route. If you have any questions, or if you have experience cold or flu and this methods have work or not in your case just let us know. But first and most important is to keep safe before illness get to you.

References

[1] NHS Live Well – Cold or Flu? – http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/coldsandflu/pages/isitacoldorflu.aspx
[2] WebMD – Vitamin C for the Common Cold – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11805584
[3] Cochrane Library – Does Echinacea reduce cold risk – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000530.pub3/abstract
[4] Cochrane Library – Will zinc put off a cold? – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub4/abstract
[5] British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) – Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults – http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2010/09/30/bjsm.2010.077875.abstract?sid=e6594508-3aaa-4c61-99ba-4ea138580947

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