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How to Tackle Winter Cold: Best Remedies for Cold and Flu Outbreaks

HealthcareOnTime Team 2023-11-25 2023-11-26 3 Min Read
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  • How to Tackle Winter Cold: Best Remedies for Cold and Flu Outbreaks

    There’s no denying that the winter months are a festive time for many, yet it also brings a fair share of cold and flu cases. Understanding why these illnesses are more prevalent in the winter and learning how to prevent the flu and treat it if you fall sick can help you enjoy this season to the fullest.

    Winter Cold vs. Flu: How Are They Different?

    We’ll first need to distinguish between the flu and the common cold because these two illnesses may not cause the same symptoms. Knowing the symptoms is important for treating colds and flu at home. 

    The common cold and the flu are both respiratory infections caused by different viruses. 1

    The common cold often causes three major symptoms — a sore throat, coughing and sneezing, and a blocked nose. While numerous viruses can cause the common cold, rhinoviruses, parainfluenza and coronaviruses 2 are typically the culprits.

    On the other hand, the flu (Influenza) develops due to the influenza virus 3 only — the cases we see around us are typically caused by influenza A, influenza B, or influenza C virus. Many people infected with this virus don’t show symptoms at all. The ones that do may experience symptoms like high temperature, body aches, etc.

    Although cold and flu symptoms are similar, flu is frequently worse than the average cold, with symptoms that are more intense and start more quickly.Colds rarely cause major health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations, whereas flu can cause serious complications.

    Both the common cold and the flu are respiratory illnesses caused by viruses. They can both cause similar symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, and congestion.


    Common Cold

    Influenza (Flu)

    Causative Virus

    Rhinovirus, coronavirus, etc.

    Influenza virus

    Onset of Symptoms





    Common, usually high

    Muscle Aches











    Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections


    Rest, fluids, over-the-counter medications

    Antiviral medications, rest, fluids


    No specific vaccine

    Annual flu vaccine available

    It is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment for either illness.

    Why Are Colds and Flu More Common in Winter?

    Viral infections resulting from the flu or common cold can vary in severity. While most people with the common cold and flu tend to recover on their own fairly quickly, the World Health Organization reports 4 that between 2,90,000 and 6,50,000 people worldwide pass away due to the common cold. 

    Are you wondering why we get colds and flu in the winter? The reasons for the increased incidence rate are numerous, including indoor crowding, lower humidity, Dry Air and Mucous Membranes, Weakened Immune Response, Inactivity and Sedentary lifestyle, Viral Survival on Surfaces, Suppressed Humoral Immune Response, vitamin D deficiency, and more.

    How Do Seasonal Patterns Increase Susceptibility for Winter Colds?

    Typically, influenza activity begins around October and peaks at the height of winter. For the most part, flu activity follows a predictable seasonal pattern. There’s also a chance that cases can stick around till summer. If you live in a temperate region, you’ll find that the influenza activity follows this pattern. 

    That said, if you reside in a region with a tropical climate, outbreaks can also occur during humid and rainy months at consistent rates throughout the year. 

    Who Is More Susceptible To Cold and Flu in Winter?

    Now that you know why colds are more common in winter, let’s understand who is most susceptible to falling sick. 

    While any person who comes into contact with the virus is susceptible to catching the illness, some groups of the population are more vulnerable than others. These include the elderly, 5 young children who go to school, and those with compromised immune systems. 

    These groups of people need to take more precautions during the winter months to lower their chances of falling sick.

    What Are the Signs and Symptoms of The Common Cold & Flu?

    Now that you know what causes the common cold and flu and how these illnesses are likely to spread from one person to another, let’s look at the common winter cold symptoms.

    Common Cold Symptoms

    Flu (Influenza) Symptoms

    Slight aches






    Chest discomfort

    Fatigue and weakness

    Stuffy nose

    Chest discomfort and cough

    Sore Throat


    Remember that the common cold and flu can have similar symptoms. However, people with flu are more likely to develop abrupt symptoms and experience chills and fever fairly quickly. On the other hand, people with the common cold may experience a gradual onset of symptoms.

    Winter Cold Causes - Reasons You’re Frequently Falling ill

    While the common cold and flu can occur anytime, they are far more common in the winter. Here’s why:

    • Cold air affects our nasal lining: The cold and flu viruses usually enter our bodies through our noses. In the summer, our noses constantly secrete mucus, trapping viruses. In the winter, however, mucus clearance slows down, making viruses more likely to penetrate this particular defense mechanism. 
    • Lack of vitamin D: Studies 6 have indicated that vitamin D may help the immune system ward off illnesses like the common cold and flu. However, vitamin D absorption is typically low in the cold months, so one may be more susceptible to respiratory diseases. A 2010 clinical trial 7, however, indicated that school-going children who consumed vitamin D3 supplements every day had a lower chance of catching the influenza A virus. So, if your vitamin D levels are low, consider taking supplements.
    • Time spent indoors: Another key factor that may contribute to the easy spread of respiratory illnesses is that as the temperature drops, we are more likely to stay indoors. This typically leads to public places becoming extremely crowded, which, in turn, aids in the spread of viruses.
    • Drop in humidity: A drop in humidity during the cold months can be linked to common cold and flu outbreaks. This is because dry air can affect the mucous membrane, which helps trap pathogens. When these membranes dry up, we become more susceptible to infections. 

    What is the Best Treatment for Winter Cold and Flu?

    Many people are at risk of contracting the common cold or flu, especially during the winter. The good news is that medical methods and natural remedies exist for cold, cough, and flu treatment. 

    Medical Treatment for Cold and Flu

    • Pain-relief medications: If you are experiencing body pains and headaches, consider taking pain-relief medicines after consulting your doctor. 
    • Decongestants: Decongestants alleviate nasal congestion, especially during colds or flu, by narrowing blood vessels, but prolonged use can cause congestion recurrence, especially for those with certain medical conditions.
    • Antiviral medications: If you’re experiencing symptoms that are hard to manage, you can take antiviral medications. Keep in mind that doctors may not prescribe antiviral medications to small children.

    What are Some Over-the-Counter Medications for Cold and Flu Symptoms?

    Over-the-counter drugs can offer comfort while dealing with the discomfort of cold and flu symptoms. It is vital to comprehend the diverse range of possibilities accessible.

    • Pain Relievers: Fever and headaches can be effectively treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®), and naproxen (Aleve®)
    • Decongestants: When you have a stuffy nose, nasal decongestants can help you breathe easier and reduce congestion
    • Cough Suppressants: An antitussive called dextromethorphan helps treat dry cough and relieves persistent coughing
    • Expectorants: By making it easier to clear mucus from the airways, the guaifenesin helps treat a wet or productive cough
    • Antihistamines: Antihistamines can effectively treat runny noses and sneezing, as well as reduce symptoms related to viral infections and allergies
    • Analgesic Lozenges: Medicated lozenges and gargles have a calming effect and provide momentary comfort for sore throats

    It's important to understand that although these drugs treat the symptoms, the underlying viral infection remains uncured. It is highly advised that you speak with a healthcare provider before taking any medicine, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or are already on another medication.

    Natural Home Remedies Cough and Cold/Flu

    • Gargle with salt water: This is one of the best home remedies for cold and flu and can help ease a sore throat. 
    • Sipping fluids: Drinking a lot of liquids can prevent dehydration and help thin out the mucus in your nose. 
    • Perform steaming: Breathing in steam can relieve nasal congestion. You can also add essential oils, like eucalyptus oil, for more relief. 
    • Blow out your nose: When blowing your nose, make sure that you are clearing your nasal passages. Sniffing the mucus back inside can cause earaches. 
    • Honey: Honey has natural antiviral and antibacterial qualities and can be added to tea or taken directly to relieve a sore throat.
    • Essential oils: Essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus can be added to hot water or a humidifier to help reduce congestion.
    • Chicken soup: It has anti-inflammatory qualities that can help relieve cold symptoms.
    • Ginger: Ginger is another best home remedy for cold and cough can help reduce inflammation and relieve nausea.
    • Elderberry: Elderberry extract can help decrease the duration of the flu.
    • Turmeric milk: Turmeric's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities can help relieve cold symptoms.
    • Probiotic-rich foods: Include yogurt, kefir, and other probiotic-rich foods in your diet. Probiotics promote gut health, which is connected to general immunity.

    What Food to Eat and Avoid to Fight Winter Cold and Flu?

    Which Fruits Are Good for Cold and Cough During Winters?

    Fruits that are beneficial for colds and coughs include:

    • Pineapples are well-known for their anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain, which can help ease a sore throat and quiet a cough.
    • Berries: In particular, strawberries and blueberries are high in antioxidants and vitamin C, which aid in reducing coughing and improve general health.
    • Kiwi: Known for its ability to combat viruses and improve the immune system.
    • Apples: They are healthy and can help with general health, especially during cold and flu season 

    While citrus fruits are generally helpful, they should be avoided during cough and cold season since they might irritate the throat and promote coughing.

    Which Fruits to Avoid for Cold and Cough During Winters?

    Some fruits should be avoided during a cold or cough because they can irritate the throat or have a cooling effect on the body, potentially exacerbating symptoms. Among these fruits are:

    • Citrus fruits include: Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits are strong in vitamin C, but they can also be acidic and irritate a sore throat.
    • Fruits that are cooling: Watermelon and cucumber have a cooling effect on the body, which can limit the body's natural heat production, which is required to combat cold viruses.
    • Fruits with a high sugar content: such as grapes and bananas, might cause an increase in mucus production, thereby exacerbating symptoms such as a runny nose and cough.

    It is critical to watch your diet during a cold or cough since certain fruits may not be as healthy as they are when you're sick.

    Which Vegetables Are Good for Cold and Cough During Winters?

    Certain veggies are good in fighting the winter cold and flu, while others should be avoided. Here are some veggies to eat and some to avoid:

    Vegetables to Eat in Winter Cold and Coughs include:

    • Sweet Potatoes: Antioxidant-rich and advantageous to the immune system
    • Spinach: A source of critical nutrients that promotes general health
    • Broccoli: Provides immune-boosting vitamins and minerals
    • Red Bell Peppers: High in vitamin C, crucial for immune system support
    • Fennel: Increases immunity to infectious diseases

    Which Vegetables to Avoid for Cold and Cough During Winters?

    Vegetables to Avoid Eating in Winter Cold and Coughs include:

    • Cooling Vegetables: Cucumber and other cooling vegetables can have a cooling impact on the body, perhaps decreasing natural heat production
    • Raw veggies: Avoid raw veggies throughout the winter as they can be difficult to digest

    During the winter months, eating a variety of nutrient-rich food can assist strengthen the immune system and overall health. For personalized nutritional recommendations, always visit a healthcare expert.

    How to Prevent Winter Colds and Flu?

    While timely treatment can help ease the severity of symptoms, learning how to prevent cold in winter can help. Here’s what you can do:

    Medical Treatment to Prevent Winter Colds and Flu

    • Flu vaccination: If you’re considering how to avoid getting sick in winter, make sure to take the flu vaccine. You will typically have to take this vaccine every year. 
    • Vitamin supplements: Begin by incorporating foods that naturally boost vitamin D levels in your diet this winter. However, if you experience a deficiency, consider taking vitamin D and C supplements to reduce the risk of falling ill.
    • Use a humidifier: Using a humidifier can help maintain the moisture level in the air, which, in turn, can protect your mucous membrane. 

    Home Remedies to Prevent Winter Colds and Flu

    • Practice hygiene habits: One of the best home remedies for colds and coughs is to wash your hands with soap from time to time thoroughly. This will help reduce the spread of the common cold and flu viruses.
    • Avoid contact: If someone you know is ill, avoid contact with them until they are better.
    • Use saline drops: Saline drops can help clear your nasal cavity and promote mucus drainage. If you have trouble blowing out your nose, use these drops for comfort. 

    What Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Winter Colds and Flu

    These lifestyle changes can make it less likely for you to catch a common cold or flu:

    • Eat a balanced diet.
    • Stay hydrated
    • Exercise regularly
    • Get sufficient sleep
    • Manage your stress

    How do you Build Immunity Against Common Cold and Cough?

    Building immunity against cough, cold, and the flu will happen when you focus on eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins. Ensure you consume sufficient vegetables and fruits, as well. You must also practice good hygiene and consume herbal teas and warm fluids. If you fall sick, home remedies for cold and flu and medical treatments will work quicker if you have good immunity.

    What Does Your Persistent Winter Cough Mean?

    The common cold and flu are caused as a result of certain viruses. While these illnesses can produce some coughs, a persistent or chronic cough could indicate underlying concerns. Some of the causes of persistent winter cough are as follows:

    • Asthma
    • Allergies
    • Bronchitis
    • Post Nasal drop
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Lung cancer
    • Heart disease

    If your cough has lasted for a while despite cough treatment at home or is accompanied by symptoms like chest pain or blood in sputum, consult your doctor immediately. 

    What Should You Do If You Have Persistent Cough and Cold?

    If you have a persistent cough and cold and the severity of your symptoms is not waning, make sure to book RT-PCR test.  In addition, a mini health check-up is advised. This examination includes several crucial indications, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. Such examinations aid in the early discovery of underlying health problems, allowing for appropriate intervention. Comprehensive respiratory tests and organ function assessments ensure a comprehensive picture of health, directing individualized wellness measures. To further streamline the health monitoring process, individuals can now benefit from the convenience of blood sample collection at home as part of these check-ups. This service not only reduces the hassle of multiple visits to healthcare facilities but also ensures a more comfortable and accessible experience for patients


    The information listed here is strictly for educational purposes and is not intended to offer personal medical advice. Do consult your physician for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. It’s not advised to disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information listed here. The Nutrition Source does not recommend or endorse any products.


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