Keeping the Cold Out!

A cold is a mild viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways. It's very common and usually clears up on its own within a week or two. You do not need a doctor’s appointment for a cold and antibiotics will not be prescribed so how can you prevent and treat the common cold?

What to do

There's no cure for a cold, but you can look after yourself at home by:

  • resting, drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthily
  • taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to reduce any fever or discomfort
  • using decongestant sprays or tablets to relieve a blocked nose
  • trying remedies such as gargling salt water and sucking on menthol sweets

Many painkillers and decongestants are available from pharmacies without a prescription. They're generally safe for older children and adults to take, but might not be suitable for babies, young children, pregnant women, people with certain underlying health conditions, and those taking certain other medications. Speak to a pharmacist if you're unsure.

Here are some tips to prevent you from getting a cold this winter

Keep Warm - New research from the proceedings of national academy of sciences in America show:

  • The common cold replicates better at nasal temperatures (33-35 °C) that lung temperatures (37°C) 
  • Higher temperatures reduce viral replication 
  • When cold viruses were exposed to normal body temperatures of 37°C the virus dies off 
  • Cooler temperatures allow the virus to spread in the airways

Zinc supplements - Zinc, a trace element found in many foods and an inhibitor of rhinoviral replication has been tested in trials for treatment of the common cold. Zinc (lozenges or syrup) when initiated within 24 hours of symptoms onset reduced cold duration by 1day and the severity of symptoms of the cold. Supplementation in children (not tested in adults) for at least five months during the cold season reduced the likelihood of developing a cold (by 36%), absence from school (by 0.4days) and the Prescription of antibiotics.

The findings suggest that zinc supplementation may be a useful measure to prevent the common cold during winter month and speed up resolution in current colds.

Vitamin C - Daily supplementation reduced the duration and severity of cold symptoms in both adults and children (18% reduction in duration with a dose of 1-2g/day). The findings of all the studies suggest Vitamin C daily supplementation is worth recommending for people prone to recurrent colds, especially if they exercise, although the therapeutic trials showed no evidence of benefit for acute treatment.

Respiratory Probiotics

Studies showed Probiotics were associated with a reduction in the number of participants experiencing coughs or colds and can reduce antibiotic prescription. They had minor side effects most commonly gastrointestinal symptoms.


Antibiotics are often prescribed unnecessarily for viral upper and lower respiratory infections. Currently, 88% of lower respiratory tract infections (chest infections) receive antibiotics costing £190 Million per year and increasing antibiotic resistance is a problem. 

If there is good clinical evidence that your symptoms are not pneumonia and are viral in nature, the illness is self-limiting and the average duration of the chesty cough is 21 days. If antibiotics were prescribed they only reduce symptoms by 1 day.