Expert tips on fighting the cold and flu this winter

Winter is coming, so we asked Jaspreet Singh Kochhar, Vicks Senior Scientist his tips on fighing colds this season. 

Q: What is the ‘common cold’, and why do we tend to get more colds in winter?

The term ‘common cold’ first came into use in the 16th century due to the similarity between its symptoms and the effects of exposure to cold weather.

It is an acute viral infectious disease that predominantly impacts the upper respiratory tract.  It is likely the most common illness on the planet with adults suffering between 2-5 colds per year. Children, whose immune system is still developing, can suffer up to 10 colds annually.

Common symptoms of cold include cough and chest congestion, nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat.  People catch colds primarily via physical contact or by inhaling airborne viral particles. This is why colds tend to be more common in Winter, when we are living in closer proximity to one another with less doors and windows open for instance.

Colds are caused by more than 200 types of viruses and there is no cure available.  Symptoms usually resolve in 7–10 days and can be managed through medications such as inhalants, syrups and lozenges.

Q: Is there a difference between a ‘cold’ and a ‘flu’? What is the difference?

A Cold is usually restricted to the upper respiratory tract - whereas, a Flu is a systemic (whole body) condition, mainly caused by Influenza types A and B.

Despite common misconceptions, a cold cannot ‘change’ into a flu. Symptoms of colds include cough, sore throat, blocked nose, excess mucus in airway, runny nose, sneezing, occasional low fever and headaches. When you have the flu, you have the above plus additional symptoms such as severe sore throat, high fever, severe headaches, aches and pains all over, poor appetite and occasional nausea.

Q: Is it possible to prevent getting or spreading a cold? How?

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent a cold from spreading. These include:

  1. Practicing good hygiene - washing hands, using hand sanitisers, sneezing and coughing into tissues are all key ways to keep germs from spreading.
  2. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night – this is time that your body needs to repair cells and maintain your immune system. If you have a cold, it’s even more important to get a good night’s sleep to help your body get better. Vicks VapoRub can help aid a restful night’s sleep, offering up to eight hours relief from a blocked nose.
  3. Manage stress - studies show that elevated levels of stress can compromise the immune system. To make sure your body is fortified against cold and flu viruses, it may help to simply relax and take it easy!

Q: What can people do to manage a cold? What are the best remedies?

When looking for remedies to manage cold & flu, you should look for ways to relieve the symptoms, including:

  1. Humidify the Air Indoors - Humidifiers increase moisture in the air, which may provide overall comfort from cold symptoms by helping clear secretions, soothing airways, and helping break up mucous so you can cough it out more easily.­[1] In addition, viruses tend to be inactivated at higher humidity, reducing their ability to infect. 2
  2. Get the right amount of sleep - Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns to give yourself seven to eight hours of sleep every night. This is not a luxury but a vital time that your body needs to repair cells and maintain your immune system. Using products like Vicks VapoRub helps to relieve nasal congestion for up to 8 hours, so that you can have a good night’s sleep.
  3. Decrease Stress - Studies show that elevated levels of stress can have an effect on your immune system.3To make sure your body is fortified against the cold and flu viruses, it may help to simply relax and take it easy.
  4. Drink water - Be especially vigilant about drinking at least six to eight glasses of water a day during the cold and flu season. Water keeps your digestion working well, flushes the system and helps fights fatigue. It’s also important to keep your respiratory system hydrated.
  5. Eat well – Eating a balanced diet is essential to keeping your immune system healthy and helping your body recover from a cold.  Ensure you have plenty of fresh food and vegetables in your diet. Hot drinks or soups can also work wonders for soothing your throat, but if you’re out and about, you could carry a Vicks Inhaler with you for quick and easy relief.

Q: What are some of the best ways to fight a cold and flu this winter?

The best way to avoid catching a cold is to stay away from people who are infected! There are also a few other tips and tricks which may help you stay healthy and avoid a cold

It can be tricky to stay healthy throughout the year, but a few good habits can get you through without succumbing to illness:

  1. Wash your hands – The surest way to catch a cold is to catch the germs that cause the cold. Avoid frequently touching your eyes, nose, and mouth during cold season and wash hands regularly with plain soap and water to reduce virus counts on the skin. A systematic review of seven different studies found that hand washing can reduce the risk of acute respiratory infection by roughly 16%. Frequently washing your hands eliminates germs and keeps you and your family healthy.
  2. Get eight hours of sleep - Making sure you get eight hours of sleep every night is one of the best defences against falling ill. If you do end up with a cold, use Vicks VapoRub as it will help aid a restful night’s sleep by offering up to eight hours relief from a blocked nose.
  3. Schedule time for exercise – Both exercise and getting good sleep strengthen the immune system and help prevent the body from catching a cold.
  4. Don't forget to relax – Stress can compromise your immune system making you more susceptible to a cold. Make sure you schedule time to relax and do things you enjoy.
  5. Drink water - Be especially vigilant about drinking at least six to eight glasses of water a day during the cold and flu season. Water keeps your hydated, digestion working well, flushes the system and fights fatigue.

Always read the label. Use only as directed.  If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.

1, Field et al. Massage therapy research. Dev Rev. 2007; 27: 75-89.

2, Field T. Massage therapy research review. Complement Ther Clin Pract. Epub August 2014.


Q: What are some of the Do’s and Don’ts when sleeping with a cold?

When you’re ill with a cold, it’s important to give your body as much rest as it needs in order to help your immune system fight off infection. Some of the Do’s and Don’ts that can help you get the sleep your body crave, especially when you’re feeling under the weather, include:


  • Adjust your sleep schedule and give your body as much rest as it needs.
  • Use something to help aid a restful sleep, such as Vicks VapoRub which provides up to eight hours relief from a blocked nose.
  • Consider using a nasal decongestant such as Vicks Sinex or humidifier —they could help you breathe more freely as you sleep.


  • Don’t use your bedroom for stressful activities such as paying bills, doing office work, or even watching television. All of these activities can inhibit your ability to relax when it's time to go to sleep. It’s a good idea to follow this advice every night, but it’s very important when you’re feeling sick. Like most people, taking a sick day can cause work to pile up. Don’t try to solve it all before bedtime. Instead, get your sleep tonight, and tackle your work tomorrow.

[1] MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Humidifiers and health. Available at: Accessed on: 24 July 2015.

2. Noti JD, Blachere FM, McMillen CM, Lindsley WG, Kashon ML, Slaughter DR, et al. (2013) High Humidity Leads to Loss of Infectious Influenza Virus from Simulated Coughs. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57485


3 Eccles R., Weber O., Editors. Common Cold. Birkäuser Advances in Infectious Disease Series. Series Editors: Schmidt, A., Weber, O., Kaufmann, S.H.E. Ch: Etiology of the common cold: Modulating Factors by Doyle, W., Cohen, S. p. 159, 2009 Birkäuser Verlag, Basel/Switzerland.

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