Winter is close, so what can we do to prevent or treat a cold?

Sam Khan-Mcintyre

There are 15 million cases of colds and flu in the UK each year. There are no cures for the actual virus, but there are numerous treatments designed to alleviate the symptoms. The latest research shows zinc is helpful in megadoses for a short period before and during the cold, as it helps to boost the immune system.

Dr John Beattie is an expert in zinc nutrition. He is currently researching biomass markers of zinc status at the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, and says, “zinc has a major effect on the immune system, and is one of the factors affecting a cold.” Foods high in zinc are red meat, chicken, fish, milk, cheese and eggs.

He explains that, “there are two types of responses by a body, the innate and adaptive responses. The body’s first reaction to a cold will be symptoms such as a sore throat, which is the innate system response.”

“Cells of the immune system will tell body of infection. Zinc will have an impact on production of chemicals to show the problem is going on.”

‘’[The] next stage is defence, the adaptive immune system realises the innate system is activated. Zinc helps facilitate the immune system, allowing chemicals to activate it, then this adaptive immune system produces antibodies.’’

Dr Beattie continues by adding that ‘’megadoses of zinc will have a significant impact‘’ on a cold, with ‘’between 75 and 100g […] suggested to be effective. However it should only be taken for a few days.”

‘’The daily recommended dose is between 12 mg and 15 mg, depending on whether you’re male or female.” Dr Beattie states that a person would normally get this from their diet.

A more enjoyable treatment could be regular sex, as it appears that this can also help ward off colds and flu. Psychologists in Pennsylvania found those who have sex between one and three times a week have a higher production of immunoglobin A (igA), which strengthens the immune system.

For other possible treatments, we spoke a pharmacist and a health food shop for their views on the subject. David of Boots in Haddington said ‘’there’s many commercial medications, but Paracetamol and a hot drink [should help] because medications only treat the symptoms of a cold’’.

Raj from the Health Food Shop, also in Haddington, had a different view, recommending alternative therapies. He said ‘’there are different types of homeopathic remedies. Echinacea is a really good one. It’s quite popular […] it’s a natural remedy that fights bacteria and bugs’’.

Other factors affecting a cold would be low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is mostly obtained from sunlight and is able to boost the immune system. The best way of keeping levels of vitamin D high in winter would be to eat oily fish and eggs, or by taking supplements.

Other remedies include chicken soup and relaxation, as stress plays havoc with the immune system. Plenty of fluids help to fight colds, and help mucous production, which traps the cold virus.

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