Expert comment: 9 ways to help prevent getting a cold this winter - from exercise to eating Brussels sprouts

5 November 2019, 16:40 | Updated: 5 November 2019, 16:50

The best ways to help stave off colds this winter (stock images)
The best ways to help stave off colds this winter (stock images). Picture: Getty

How to prevent and stave off coughs and colds this winter: expert comment

Winter is a wonderful time for many reasons - it's winter coat season, Christmas is just around the corner, and we finally have an excuse to listen to festive songs round the clock - but the fact we're now more at risk of catching coughs and colds really puts a dampener on the season.

As soon as November hits it feels like the whole world is coming down with something - but there are steps you can take to help prevent and treat common winter colds and coughs.

Dr Ross Perry, GP and founder of clinics Cosmedics, told Heart that there are a number of steps you can take to prevent illness at this time.

1) Try to stay away from people with colds

"It may sound obvious," Dr Perry says. "But this is the best way to avoid catching the virus. Don’t be afraid to ask people to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing (politely and diplomatically of course!). Try to sit a little away from someone who’s full of cold if you’re on the train or in a meeting. If you have kids though, sadly this is impossible as they will pick up every germ from nursery and school and bring it home. 

How to help prevent a common cold this winter
How to help prevent a common cold this winter. Picture: Getty

2) Wash your hands regularly

"This helps to stop the virus spreading through things you touch," says Dr Perry. "You don’t need to be obsessive, but just be a bit more conscious about how easily germs could spread from people sneezing then opening a door."

3) Take your vitamins

Vitamin C is thought to be great for the immune system, and it's beneficial to take a Vitamin D supplement in the winter months as there's limited sunlight.

"Build up your body’s resistance by ensuring a good intake of vitamin C," he recommends. "Citrus fruit is great, but for maximum impact take 1000mcg a day  of vitamin C supplement. Do this every day, not just when you start to sniff or feel under the weather."

Dr Perry adds: "Vitamin D is also good as this helps to support the immune system. Again, a supplement is the best way to ensure you’re getting enough. I also recommend cod liver oil capsules, which are packed full of omega 3 and nutrients including vitamins A and D."

4) Keep up regular exercise

Exercise might be the last thing you fancy doing in the cold winter evenings, but Dr Perry says it's a great way to keep up your immune system.

"If you can get outside every day for a 15 minute walk to boost the circulation that is a huge benefit to immunity, circulation and cardiovascular health", he says.

5) Eat the right foods

"Eat healthily with plenty of fruit and veg", he says. "Don’t just rely on supplements, as the variety and quality of nutrients you get in food is very helpful too".

Brussels sprouts are a good vitamin-rich food to eat in the winter
Brussels sprouts are a good vitamin-rich food to eat in the winter. Picture: Getty

More specifically, he recommends vitamin-packed foods like lemons, kale, kiwi - and even Brussels sprouts.

"Brussels sprouts – not just for Christmas!", he says. "They’re packed with vitamin C and also A. If you really can’t stand them, broccoli is also a good choice."

6) Avoid alcohol

"As tempting as it is when the nights draw in and winter sets in to turn to alcohol, try not to drink too much alcohol as this can weaken your body’s immunity," he says. "It makes you dehydrated and make it more susceptible to colds and flu".

7) Get enough sleep

It's easier said than done, but getting enough rest at night can be key to staving off colds.

"Get a good amount of rest and sleep to allow your body to recover and give it chance to fight any infections," he says. "As recommended, 8 hours is optimum. Do not let your body get itself run down as that’s when immune systems suffer and you allow the germs and infections to take hold."

Always consult your doctor if concerned about an illness.