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Don't get caught.. COLD; Don't get caught.. 's the temperature drops, colds and flu loom large, but can we prevent them? m? We ask Professor Ron Eccles, director of the UK's Common Cold Centre.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A COLD AND FLU? "EVEN experts can't tell the difference between a bad cold and mild flu just by looking at the symptoms," said Prof Eccles.

"A cold virus can cause severe flu-like symptoms, while a flu virus can be experienced as a mild cold."

The difference can only be detected under the microscope. Cold viruses are with us all the time, but seasonal flu only appears during the winter, with a different strain causing each year's main flu outbreak.

IS IT EASY TO CATCH A COLD? COLDS are not as contagious as you may think.

"You need prolonged and close contact, which is why most are caught from your children or partner," said Prof Eccles.

This is also why kids at school tend to get more colds, averaging seven to 12 per year, compared to adults who suffer two to five.

We used to think colds were transmitted when infected people sneezed or coughed virus particles into the air.

But latest research suggests you're far more likely to pick up a cold by touching a person or contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs, and then touching your eyes or nose.

WILL PROBIOTICS HELP? ST pb STUDIES show that taking a probiotic that contains 'healthy' bacteria can reduce your chances of getting a cold.

"The gut is perhaps the most important part of our immune system," said Prof Eccles. "There's evidence that probiotics may boost good bacteria levels."

Try Bimuno Immunaid (PS9.99 for 30) or Lepicol (PS11.18 for 180g).

WILL WE EVER HAVE A CURE? THERE are hundreds of different cold and flu viruses and we're constantly discovering new ones, which is why experts say we'll probably never find a cure.

"As long as we have noses we'll have colds," said Prof Eccles. "But there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk of catching them."

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I WASH MY HANDS? WASHING your hands every time you touch something isn't a practical solution.

"The sensible approach is just to wash your hands regularly with soap and water," said Prof Eccles.

But wearing gloves on public transport and keeping a sanitiser gel handy when you're out and about can help.

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NG? IS VITAMIN D WORTH TRYING? PROF Eccles takes the supplement every year as a precaution.

"There's sufficient research that vitamin D is vital for the immune system and supplements might help to support it over the winter when we are short in this nutrient," he said.

We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight on our skin, but it is also found in foods such as oily fish, eggs and breakfast cereals, although it is hard to get enough through diet alone.

Try Holland & Barrett Liquid Vitamin D3 (PS9.69 for 59ml).

ARE HERBAL REMEDIES EFFECTIVE? EX Zu sp EXTRACT of pelargonium root is an ancient Zulu remedy and research shows it can speed up the rate at which your body gets rid of the cold virus. Try Kaloba Oral Drops, PS8.99 for 20ml, from Boots.

fro 12 AR Other research suggests black elderberry extract, which is an antioxidant, cuts flu duration by half.

ex du Try Sambucol Extra Defence, PS9.99 for 120ml, from Boots.

WHAT SHOULD I TAKE TO EASE SYMPTOMS? THIS month, consumer group Which? criticised some popular over-the-counter products for making health claims that weren't backed by sufficient evidence. Most remedies won't help you get rid of your symptoms faster.

EA TH T IS mo so s me p ma m kin su s ffic you g Pr usu sev lin me th Prof Eccles explained: "Cold and flu viruses usually get better within four to seven days, although flu can linger for up to 14 days. But medicines may help to ease the symptoms."

He suggested a hot drink and paracetamol should take the edge off most colds.

dr sh o WHAT ABOUT EATING CURRY? LATEST research shows tucking into spicy foods, or using strongly flavoured cough syrups or lozenges, could be an effective way to ease some symptoms.

Try Covonia Chesty Cough Mixture Mentholated, PS6.99 for 300ml. WELtofoes asmh "Strong flavours, such as pepper, activate specific receptors in the mouth known as TRP channels. This can help to soothe throats," said Prof Eccles.

MWNkadi WILL ANTIBIOTICS SHIFT IT? NO - they only target bacteria and can't kill the viruses that cause colds and flu. But if your cold develops into a nasty chest infection, you will need antibiotics to clear it up. You should see your GP for advice.

acYse fo accord DO I NEED THE FLU JAB? NOT if you're under 65 and in good health, according to Prof Eccles. He explained: "It's actually better for you to catch flu because you'll get lifelong resistance against that particular strain and vaccines wear off about six months.

you pa in pr he ti ht "But if you're at high risk - over 65, pregnant, or have a chronic respiratory, heart or kidney disease - now's the time of year to have it. If your GP hasn't written to you yet, contact them. For those at high risk, the flu vaccine could prevent having to go to hospital and even save your life."

vh IS EXERCISE GOOD OR BAD? IT depends how much exercise you do. D? n a Research has shown that a gentle jog can cut your chances of a cold or flu by up to a third. But a recent study by Loughborough University found that extreme exercise, such as running a marathon, makes you up times more likely to become ill with a virus lowers your defences.

to six s as it Fitness expert Justin Way, from puregym.advised: "If you only have a mild cold then workouts could actually be more beneficial resting - and it can help to ease a blocked But never overdo it." com, light l than nose.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 30, 2012
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