Last week I went from sleeping in summer pyjamas with a light sheet over me, to wearing a warm tracksuit and pair of socks with a thick duvet and blanket. In South Africa, we seem to skip autumn and move, overnight, from a sweltering summer evening, to an icy cold winter’s morning.
We instantly recognise the seasonal shift with the arrival of the familiar sore throat, cough, earache, sniffles, and hay fever. This dramatic change is quite literally a shock to the system and looking after ourselves at this time is essential to staying healthy. As I struggle with a slightly sore throat and hear the sound of sneezing and coughing from our two children, I realise, with some trepidation, that the common cold is knocking on our door and I’m desperate to keep it out – but how?
Aleghandra Sanchez, a nurse and nutritionist, suggests that diet and physical exercise play a vital role in our ability to keep the common cold from catching us. Her Spanish mother raised her on a diet rich in onion, garlic, and lemon, and she remains solidly convinced that this has kept her free from the slightest of sniffles. What is truly incredible is that Aleghandra can’t remember ever having a cold.
Nurse Sanchez has a few suggestions for steering clear of the common cold:
- Drink pure lemon juice every day. While living in London, her and her husband Gregor, drank freshly squeezed lemons every morning, and never suffered a cold. As soon as she feels a slight tickle in her throat, Aleghandra gargles with pure lemon juice, which acts as a natural anti-septic and kills any germs before they develop into a cold.
- Have 1 000mg of Vitamin C during high-risk periods. Although the jury’s out on whether Vitamin C is indeed able to keep the common cold at bay, professionals do agree that it boosts your immune system and therefore strengthens your resistance to cold and flu bugs. Aleghandra recommends we fight infection with 1 000mg of vitamin C during high-risk periods.
- Eat a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Cut out sugar and alcohol – no more hot chocolate for me, then. Studies suggest that sugar and alcohol break down our immune system and make us vulnerable to illness.
- Drink 7-10 glasses of water per day. It’s vital to stay well-hydrated during seasonal changes.
- Have a good night’s sleep. Studies have shown that having fewer than 6 hours of sleep makes us prone to sickness.
- Get moving. Austrian fitness coach Sashka Rappl suggests that those who are physically fit may well get a cold. However, because of their fitness levels, they get better faster.
Now that I’ve written this, I’m off to visit my folks – they have a lemon tree and I have a sore throat. The children and I will be spending the afternoon picking lemons and hoping for a cold-free winter season. I’m hoping the same for you.