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Fight your cold flashpoints

Think you know how to battle a cold? Those habits could make a flare-up worse. We explain what you should do

6:30am

YOUR BELIEF Time to ‘feed a cold’ with comfort food – cereal, plus a sausage sarnie on white bread.

THE REALITY Sorry to be the Food Police, but if you have a diet that’s high in refined starch, sugar and saturated fat, it can promote inflammation – which may make you feel worse. Instead, comfort your cold with a nutrient-rich menu of wholegrains, fruit and vegetables.

7:30am

YOUR BELIEF The walk to the bus stop in the cold air will clear your head and nose.

THE REALITY Probably not: in a study on mice, scientists found that a colder temperature = a sluggish immune response. This means that rhinoviruses (which are the main causes of the common cold) reproduce better when it’s chilly. So it’s important to wrap up warm – including covering your mouth and nose – to make you feel like you’re in the Bahamas, rather than on the drafty No72 bus.

11am

YOUR BELIEF You can’t go home – there’s so much to do. But your work- mates are hiding from your sneezes…

THE REALITY Scientists reckon that a cold can produce a ‘foggy brain’ sensation that’s similar to how you feel when you drink alcohol, for example – so you’re not operating at full capacity. Is there a better argument for taking a day off to rest up?

3pm

YOUR BELIEF A milky brew will warm you up and stop the shivers.

THE REALITY Sergeant Sensible again: while dairy won’t increase the mucus you produce, it can make it more irritating, as it may appear to be thicker. Try herbal tea, and lots of water throughout the day.

6pm

YOUR BELIEF A workout will clear your head, so it’s time for some HIIT action. It’s quick, right?

THE REALITY Mild exercise (Pilates, a walk or slow jog – not high impact) is usually fine if your symptoms are above the neck. But if you have chest congestion, a hacking cough or an upset stomach, a fever, fatigue or muscle aches, it’s time for a gym-cation, to avoid making your symptoms worse.

10pm

YOUR BELIEF Sleep will help you feel perkier than a Celebrity Big Brother star having a career revival.

THE REALITY Or not. Our immune system has its own wake-and-sleep cycle. Your ‘fighter’ cells spend the day protecting your body, but at night, they’ve been shown to slow down. That’s why you can get a mucus-filled nose, aches and coughing mid-sleep. Delightful. Try raising the head of your bed to help ease congestion, and ask your local Boots pharmacist about over-the-counter remedies.

Words Danielle Hine Illustration Shutterstock

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