Tag Archives: common cold

Are you allergic to winter?

The cold winter months can actually increase allergic symptoms in some people, spelling months of misery. Summer allergies are often spotted and tackled early by sufferers. Winter allergies however are less well-known, and are often mistaken for colds or flu, meaning that they are not dealt with effectively.

For those who suffer during the colder months, it is important to know the difference between an allergy and a cold, to understand the most common triggers and to take action to eliminate the troublesome symptoms.

Spot the difference! Is it an allergy or a cold?

Is it just a common cold or is it an allergy?

Many people believe that they are suffering with a common cold when in fact they are experiencing allergy symptoms. After all, coughing, sneezing and a runny nose can be symptoms of either ailment. However, a cold should not last more than 10 days. If your symptoms persist over weeks or months, then it is far more likely that you are suffering with an allergy. Other allergy symptoms include itchy eyes or nose, watery eyes and dark circles under the eyes.

Winter allergy triggers

Spending more time indoors, with the heating on full blast, can mean weeks of misery for allergy sufferers. Common allergy triggers during this time can be:

  • Mould. Moist conditions caused by indoor heating can lead to the growth of mould. Bathrooms and kitchens are particularly susceptible to this problem. Steamy showers in small bathrooms can also be a culprit. If you notice condensation on your windows during the cold weather, then look out for mould.
  • Dust mites. Ducted heating indoors encourages dust to circulate throughout the house. Extra bedding and long-stored winter clothing can also be a breeding ground for troublesome dust mites.
  • Animals. During the winter time, it is more likely that both you and your pet will spend more time indoors. Contrary to popular belief, allergies to pet fur are uncommon. It is more likely that you are allergic to certain proteins present in pet dander and saliva.

Winter Allergy Action Plan

There are a number of natural measures that may help to fight off persistent allergy symptoms at this time of year.

  • Vacuum and dust more often during the winter months.
  • Wash pillows and sheets in hot water every week.
  • Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows and duvets.
  • Natural nasal sprays such as those containing salt can lessen inflammation and help keep the nasal passages clear.
  • Watch out for mould, especially in moist areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Clean the filters in your air-conditioning and heater units.
  • Try an air filter to reduce allergens in your home.
  • Don’t assume sniffles are the result of cold viruses, especially if your symptoms last more than a couple of weeks. Check with your GP if you are unsure.
  • Anti-inflammatory nutrients and natural anti-histamines such as Vitamin C and omega-3 fish oils may be helpful. For allergic symptoms, I often recommend a combination of potent anti-inflammatory nutrients quercetin and bromelain. You should always check with your GP before taking any new supplements, especially if you are already taking prescribed medications.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.


Image courtesy of “evah” (Sebastian Smit).


Probiotics for the Common Cold

During winter, the common cold strikes 930,000 Britons on average. We probably catch more colds during this season because we spend much more time indoors, in close proximity. New Year’s Eve parties, January sales and family gatherings mean that we’re coming into physical contact with more people, leaving us susceptible to catching and spreading the common cold.

Probiotics may help prevent the Common Cold
Probiotics may help prevent Infections such as the Common Cold

While there is still no cure for the common cold, a recent analysis has found evidence for taking probiotics as a way of preventing the risk of infection (1). It seems that probiotics may improve health by regulating immune function.

The systematic review, conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, analysed 10 studies involving 3451 participants. The study examined the evidence for probiotics as a way to prevent upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).

In studies where probiotics were taken for more than a week, probiotics reduced the number of individuals who had at least one acute upper respiratory tract infection by 42%.

Side effects reported were minor, such as digestive discomfort, and were not any more common in those taking probiotics than in the control groups.

Probiotics may support the immune system by bolstering the health of the gut wall and boosting activity of phagocytes, white blood cells that fight infection.

When choosing a probiotic supplement, be sure to opt for one that uses well-researched strains. It is important that the probiotic strain that you use is capable both of surviving stomach acidity and ‘sticking’ to the gut lining.

I often recommend Optibac ‘For daily wellbeing EXTRA strength’ as this contains one of the most well researched strains, L. acidophilus NCFM. It is also FOS free, which can be useful for those who are worried about side effects such as bloating. Udo’s Choice Super 8 Probiotic also provides the strain L. acidophilus NCFM at an effective dosage.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC


(1.) Hao Q, Lu Z, Dong BR, Huang CQ, Wu T. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Sep 7


Zinc may shorten common colds

As autumn and winter draw on, many of us are blighted by the common cold.  While there is still no cure for the virus, a new literature review indicates that a common supplement can reduce its duration.

Zinc may help the immune system
Studies have found that zinc and zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of the common cold by 40% (3)

The study, published in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, found that when given in higher doses, zinc and zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of the common cold by 40%.

There have been many studies on the effectiveness of zinc lozenges in treating colds, and results have not been consistent.  This new meta-analysis assessed 13 placebo-controlled trials in order to get a better picture of the effectiveness of the supplement.

Of the 13 trial studies, 5 used a total daily zinc dose of less than 75mg.  Each of these studies found no beneficial effect on cold duration.

Three trials used zinc acetate in daily doses of more than 75mg.  Each of these 3 studies found zinc to be beneficial, with an average of a 42% reduction in the duration of colds.

Five further trials used other forms of zinc in daily doses of more than 75mg.  Again, these trials showed benefit, with an average 20% decrease in the duration of colds.

While some studies recorded adverse effects such as unpleasant taste, no evidence was found that zinc lozenges might cause long term harm.  The study leader Dr Hemia concluded that “since a large proportion of trial participants have remained without adverse effects, zinc lozenges might be useful for them as a treatment option for the common cold.”

The therapeutic properties of zinc are thought to be due to this mineral’s ability to affect the immune response, as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  In addition, zinc may actually inhibit the common cold virus (rhinovirus) (3).

For the common cold, zinc lozenges and sublingual zinc do appear to be a better option than zinc tablets or capsules.  This is because zinc lozenges dissolve in the mouth allowing the mucus membranes in the throat (and any cold virus there) to be acted on directly by the zinc.  Swallowing a capsule or tablet would not allow the zinc to work in the same way.

The trials that Dr Hemlia reviewed were each based on small numbers of participants, indicating that more research is needed in this area.  I would also add as a caveat that zinc is known to compete with other minerals in the body.  These minerals include copper and iron.  Long term intakes of high levels of any one mineral can reduce levels of another, a process called ‘competitive inhibition’.  Nevertheless, the study indicates that short-term intakes of high amounts of zinc should pose no harm, and may provide welcome relief for those suffering with winter colds.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC


1. Harri Harri. Zinc Lozenges May Shorten the Duration of Colds: A Systematic Review. The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, 2011; 5 (1): 51 DOI: 10.2174/1874306401105010051.

2. Korant BD, et al. Inhibition by zinc of rhinovirus protein cleavage: interaction of zinc with capsid polypeptides. J Virol. 1976;18(1):298-306.

3.  Image courtesy of Ambro.