As much as we hate to admit it, the temperature is dropping and the common cold is back with a vengeance. The Underground is slowly filling with the sound of runny noses and hoarse coughs and the dreaded expression 'under the weather' is prevailing on the office air. Dealing with darker, shorter and colder days is enough to contend with; we don't need a sore throat and uncontrollable sneezing to accompany it.
With that in mind, we asked four experts for their top tips on preventing the pesky virus this season, as well as how to get rid of a cold if the worst does happen.
The immune-boosting rules to follow? Read on...
1. Have a healthy diet
As simple as it might seem, eating a healthy, balanced diet and keeping stress down to a reasonable level (we know, harder said than done) are both key to keeping your body in tip top form. 'Antioxidants are particularly important - so eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables,' says Naturopath and herbalist Lloyd Gee. 'Particularly richly coloured ones like dark berries, greens and beetroots, as well as onions and garlic.'
2. Say goodbye to stress
We've all experienced that 'run down' feeling - and it usually peaks when we allow our bodies to slow down, or are jetting off into the sunset for a well-earned break the following day. Exercise can help both relieve stress and strengthen your immune system, so don't overlook this easy feel-good trick. If you haven't got time for the gym, take a power walk at lunch, or try a few yoga moves to relax after work. We love Kayla Itsines's 12 Week Bikini Body Program.
3. Splash out on supplements
For those of you who won't go a day without your vitamin fix, it might actually be paying off. We asked pharmacist, homeopath and founder of The Organic Pharmacy, Margo Marrone, for her supplement recommendations.
'Prevention is always a good idea in the winter months and there's two things I always rely on, the first of which is Immune Tonic, a mixture of herbs that help naturally boost the body’s immune system,' she explains. 'As prevention, I suggest five drops a day from October to February and if it does go into a full blown cold, then increase the dose to ten drops, three times a day, for four days.
'I also recommend Quercetin Complex, a mixture of vitamin C, quercetin and bromelain to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation often associated with colds. Take three capsules a day throughout the winter.'
Anything else? Lloyd Gee also recommends vitamin D, zinc and omega 3 oils, such as fish or flax seed oil for helping to prevent and treat a cold, alongside the herb Echinacea.
How to get rid of a cold
If the worst does happen and the the cold makes an unwanted debut, it's important to look after yourself - you'll get rid of cold symptoms and be back to full health much quicker if you swap social engagements for a night on the sofa.
Aside from taking traditional over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, there are also plenty of alternative remedies to try - most of which use ingredients you probably already have hidden in your kitchen cupboard. Bonus.
For a sore throat...
Hot drinks are in abundance when it comes to soothing a sore throat. So, it would seem there's logic in grabbing a Starbucks before braving the morning commute. Ok, maybe we're not completely telling the truth. 'Hot lemon and honey drinks can be given freely to help clear catarrh and soothe a sore throat and chest,' medical herbalist and Ayurvedic practitioner, Anne McIntyre, suggests.
Essentially, rest, rest and more rest is the answer. Anne also recommends the soothing benefits of chamomile; perfect for winding down and getting the sleep you need to aid a speedy recovery. Yes, it's time to dig out those chamomile teabags.
For a runny or blocked nose...
We turned to Shabir Daya, pharmacist at Victoria Health for his top runny and blocked nose treatments. 'For a runny nose, I tend to recommend Plantago Tincture by A.Vogel,' he says. Take fifteen drops, three times a day. Plantago tincture contains compounds that help to ease inflammation in the nasal passages, which in turn helps to reduce the amount of mucus produced.
'Additionally, some compounds in Plantago work to break down mucus which eases its expulsion from the nose and this dual action often results in quickly clearing blocked noses.'
On that note, we're off to tuck into our greens.