Top 10 ways to help guard against cold and flu

Mature woman being offered a warm cup of tea
Stay hydrated: lemon and honey tea can help soothe a sore throat Credit: Getty

With cold and flu season upon us, Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers explains the best ways to help keep coughs and sniffles at bay

The range of solutions is broad, from prevention and supporting immunity, to flu vaccinations and products to help relieve symptoms of seasonal bugs.

1 Take the right approach

“When you have a cold, you need to help fight the physical symptoms to help you get through the day and get a decent night’s sleep,” suggests Angela. “People are often overwhelmed by the number of cold and flu products available, so talk to your Boots pharmacy team, who will advise on your best course of action and find the best one to relieve your symptoms.”

2 Get the handwashing habit

“Viruses are often spread by hand – that’s hand to mouth, hand to nose and hand to eye,” explains Angela. “Hand hygiene is vital to prevent colds spreading, so wash hands frequently, especially after travelling on public transport.”

3 Wipe away germs

“Viruses can live for hours on hard surfaces – desks, light switches, fridge handles, ATMs – so use an antiviral wipe on these to help contain the spread,” says Angela.

“You may have washed your hands, but if someone has just sneezed into their hand then touched one of these shared surfaces, the virus will be present.”

4 Keep air flowing

In winter, it’s understandable to want to keep warm indoors with the windows shut. However, Angela warns against this. “That’s the perfect breeding ground for viruses,” she points out. “So try to open windows a little where possible in winter weather to keep the particles moving.” It may be helpful to consider buying an air filter or humidifier to help filter out some of those harmful particles and Boots sells a wide range. Look online at to find out more.

5 Get fresh air and exercise

Research shows that people who exercise suffer from fewer colds. The study, carried out at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, found that those who exercised five or more times a week (a simple brisk, 30-minute walk) got fewer and less severe colds than those who worked out once a week, or not at all.

6 Eat little and often

“In order to fight viruses, you need to give your immune system the fuel it needs,” says Angela. “Eat little and often, including an array of different-coloured fruit and vegetables, as well as energy-dense foods.”

7 Consider taking a supplement or herbal product

If you feel that you are struggling to consume a healthy balanced diet, you could consider taking a supplement.  Vitamin C and zinc can both help maintain a normal immune system.

8 Stop smoking

It’s not easy to give up smoking but studies do show that people who smoke suffer from more frequent colds and flu. The good news is that Boots pharmacists are available to offer support and advice to those who feel ready to try to cut down or quit. This could range from one-to-one support through to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

“When you smoke, the cilia – small hairs that basically spring-clean your lungs – are paralysed, meaning mucus stays in the chest,” points out Angela. “However, within 24 hours of giving up smoking, they come back to life again and can start to clear congested mucus.”

For details of how Boots pharmacists can help, ask in store or visit

9 Have a hot drink – or a curry

Hot drinks encourage the production of saliva, which lubricates your throat and makes your nose run. Hot lemon with honey is soothing and has a strong flavour, as does blackcurrant.

And if you’re partial to a curry, the good news is that it works in the same way as hot drinks, according to Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. The spices assist the body to produce more mucus, which in turn can help rid the body of bacteria.²

10 Have the flu vaccination

“A lot of people think that because they aren’t pregnant, or over 65, or don’t have a medical condition, then they won’t benefit from the flu vaccination,” says Angela. “But even if you’re not at risk, if you get flu it could set you back for one to two weeks.”

Most Boots pharmacies in England and Wales offer the free NHS vaccination for those who qualify but a private Winter Flu Jab Service is also available in selected stores for those others who feel they would benefit.¹ You can book your vaccination at Boots stores nationwide or visit

To find out more about how Boots pharmacists can help you make decisions about healthcare or book a flu vaccination, visit

1. Charges may apply. The service is subject to specially trained pharmacist and stock availability. Eligibility criteria apply. Available in selected stores only.