Do coughs and sneezes really spread diseases?
Posted on 14th January 2015 at 07:30
As traditional as the Christmas festivities, breaking of new year’s resolutions (!) and January blues; is the upswing in coughs and colds as soon as everyone gets back to their normal routine.
Every January, around this time, we hear people making the same comments over and over again. About all the bugs doing the rounds. How generous people are in passing them on. And how bugs are “lurking out there” – wherever “there” is – just waiting to get them.
(And we're not just talking about Man Flu, either?!?)
But is this really true? Particularly the bit about bugs waiting to pounce on any unsuspecting person that passes by. When you stop to think about it, doesn’t this just sound too silly for words? Using this logic, you’d hardly be able to set food outside your front door without succumbing to some bug or other. And yet this isn’t the case for most people.
So, is there something else going on here? That makes some people succumb to a particular bug, but not others.
Well, yes, without a doubt. It’s all about susceptibility. It’s something you may not have heard your Doctor mention, but we talk to patients about it regularly. Quite simply, if you’re susceptible to a particular bug you MAY go down with it. But it’s not guaranteed. If you’re not susceptible, you won’t. It’s really as simple as that.
This is why you can be in an office or car – or other crowded place – with someone with a stinking cold, for example, and not succumb; while others may.
While susceptibility sounds simple in practice, it’s not just about your immune system. Of course, it plays an important part, but it’s not the whole story.
The choices we make every day are also important, which is why we’re always talking about things like diet, exercise, water and stress.
Not forgetting simple preventative measures like remembering to wash your hands regularly, not sharing drinks and throwing away used tissues.
If an analogy works better for you, picture your immune system as the defence force tasked with protecting your body. If they weren’t properly fed – and watered (!) – fully fit and given time off to recharge their batteries; how effective would they be if the worst happened?
So often we hear people say that doing simple things every day which help safeguard your health are too much like hard work. Not to mention boring (!), stopping them doing the things they want to do.
There’s no doubt that making any change can be daunting. And it’s not helped if the benefits aren’t felt straight away.
But how about looking at it from the other side? What it’s like to succumb to every bug doing the rounds. Losing your zest for life. Feeling uninspired and unhealthy. Is that how you really want to live your life?
This is why we talk about making small changes, one at a time. Making it easy on yourself. About not beating yourself up when you have a little wobble and have to start again.
You already know the simple things you can do every day to help boost your health. To help minimise your chances of succumbing to any of the bugs doing the rounds.
So let’s quickly remind you about the things you can do to help yourself if the worst should happen:
Drink plenty of fluids. And not tea, coffee, alcohol (!) or any high sugar drinks. Fruit juices – particularly pineapple – water or squash all help flush your system.
The old favourites, hot honey and lemon – or ginger and lemon – help soothe sore throats and get catarrh moving too.
Keep your diet light. Heavy meals divert energy away from your immune system, to digest this food. Instead eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Easily digestible protein such as chicken, eggs and fish. Warming homemade soups are delicious and full of all the things your body needs.
Avoid dairy products. Milk, cheese, butter and the like all add to catarrh – or snot, if you prefer (!).
Get plenty of rest. Avoid any strenuous exercise but, if you feel like it, a gentle walk in the fresh air can help clear the airways and catarrh. Make sure you’re well wrapped up though.
If you want a little extra help, off the shelf products such as Vitamin C, Zinc, Echinacea and Sambucol can help.
While we’re on the subject of colds, let’s quickly lay to rest another myth we regularly hear from patients. This is that if you’re in good health you should never get a cold.
Certainly, having one bug after another – or one that hangs around for a long time – is a sign that something is amiss. To look at your lifestyle choices and make some changes.
An occasional cold isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gives your immune system a work out, “use it or lose it”. While it may not seem it at the time, catarrh acts as a great detox, clearing all sorts of junk out of your body – as does running a slight temperature.
So long as you listen to your body, and give it what it needs, a cold doesn’t need to be anything to worry about.
And yes, we know, you’ve heard it all before. So now it’s over to you.
As always, the choice is yours.
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