How to ease and reduce cold symptoms

More than 200 different viruses cause colds so it can be hard to avoid catching one. If you do, try these ways to help reduce your suffering and get an immune system boost so you get better more quickly.

Listen to your body
Start by finding out more about what you or someone in your family is going through. Check out our useful guide to High temperatures and fevers.

Rest, don’t exercise
If you’re a regular exerciser, it’ll be tempting to stick to your workout routine but when you’re ill, you need to rest, particularly if you have a fever. Taking three rest days won’t hamper your fitness regime. If you do feel restless, just check with your GP before resuming your exercises.

Eat well
A low-fat, high-fibre diet will help speed up your recovery when you have a cold. Base your diet on fruit, vegetables and brown rice with a little fish, chicken or pulses. Drink plenty of hot liquids, such as chicken soup, to nourish you. Hot herbal tea is also a good choice. Or squeeze lemon juice into a mug of hot water and stir in a dollop of honey. Focus on light meals to prevent overloading your digestive system.

Supplement minerals
In addition to antioxidants, be sure that you get an adequate supply of zinc, required for the production and activation of the T-cells in your blood that play an important part in your immune system. Tuck into foods such as red meat, poultry, beans, nuts and wholegrains as they are all rich in zinc.

Try Vicks cold and flu medicines
From First Defence Nasal Spray to Sinex Soother, Cough Syrup and VapoRub, there are a range of different products that can help ease cold  and flu symptoms. Find out more about Vicks medicines at

Using teas and herbal remedies
Drink elderberry tea to ease cold symptoms or gargle with cooled sage tea to soothe a sore throat. Drink ginger in fresh, tea or capsule form to ease aches and a tight chest. Take echinacea, either as a tincture or tablets, every couple of hours.
NB: Seek GP advice before trying any non-medical cold and flu remedies, if you have any concerns.

Make a winter foot warmer
Try a mustard footbath, prepared by adding two teaspoons of mustard powder to one litre of hot water. This is said to draw blood to the feet, thereby helping to relieve congestion in the head and lungs.

Foods for an immune system boost

  • Yoghurt contains probiotics – good bacteria that line our intestines and defend our body against germs.
  • Red peppers have about twice as much immune-enhancing vitamin C as an orange; a daily intake of vitamin C may help decrease the duration of a cold.
  • Sweet potatoes contain beta carotene, a pro-vitamin that gives sweet potatoes their orange pigment. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and research suggests vitamin A may be particularly helpful in the treatment of respiratory infections.
  • Garlic contains sulphur compounds that have been shown to help kill viruses. Fresh garlic has more immune-boosting potential than cooked, so add a clove of fresh minced garlic at the end of cooking.
  • Ginger contains gingerol, which improves circulation and enhances immune and digestive function. Make a tea by finely chopping a 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger. Steep it in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, add a squeeze of lemon juice and chopped spring onions, then strain and sip.

For more ideas, check out Five foods to keep colds away which includes ideas of how to enjoy these foods in your everyday diet.