Usually, when I write my first cold/flu-related column I have opened the window to let in blazing sunshine and warm late summer air. So again this year. Kicking your brain into cold/flu-related action is a bit tricky in these lovely conditions…I will do my best!

Right now, even though we might be experiencing the first little head cold, we are still winning the battle easily with dressing up a bit warmer or taking a little more rest.

We still spend a lot of time outside every day, which is the reason why it’s so easy to shake the little niggles: cold air kills germs and bacteria very effectively. My best advice for keeping colds and flu at bay this winter is: wrap up and get walking every day to get some fresh air, to literally clear your airways of nasty bugs and viruses. They linger in the inside air, in stuffy rooms and spaces crowded with people. So to lessen your exposure to these germs and to kick start your immune system get walking or running this winter. On days that you cannot manage a walk you can still get fresh air by opening the windows in your house for 5-10 minutes to let fresh air flow through and replace old used up air.

As you can see, I am a firm believer in fresh air to avoid picking up germs! But there are other remedies as well…

Your local pharmacy or health store will offer a wide range of cold remedies including multivitamins (in particular Vitamin C & Zinc) and the herb Echinacea Angustifolia (proven to be effective against colds). Manuka Honey (MGO100 upwards, or UMF10+ upwards) has been proven to kill germs, and in my experience it can help get rid of colds, coughs and tummy bugs. Simply take a teaspoon three times a day away from food. It is very expensive, but when you are suffering badly it is a small price to pay to make you better. I am a big fan of culinary herbs to help fight colds: Thyme tea taken 1-3 times per day at the start of a stuffy nose. You can drink as much as 1-1.5l a day as drinking lots of fluids will further help shift colds. Rosemary and Thyme in a bowl of boiling water at bedtime, either inhale using a towel over your head, or simply put into your bedroom as you are getting into bed.

Fresh garlic will fight colds, the fresher the better. Add to your dishes just at the end of cooking or even add to your salads. Delicious! All teas can be made using one teaspoon dried or fresh herb on a cup of boiling water and steeped for 5 minutes. Use tea strainers to avoid drinking pieces of herb in your tea.

Whichever choice you make, remember to start taking your remedies early (now!) and ensure you take them throughout the winter.

Remember to speak to your pharmacist about Flu Vaccination if you are in a high-risk group!

Read Alexandra’s health and lifestyle advice every month in Ireland’s Own