Treat yourself better without Antibiotics

Posted on: 21 November 2013 by 50connect editorial

With cold and flu season about to hit, a new health compaign has been launched called “Treat Yourself Better Without Antibiotics”. In our new weekly expert news column we look behind the headlines and what it means for us.

Winter colds and fluWhat is this campaign all about?

Do you head to the GP surgery for a course of antiobiotics if you feel a sniffle coming on? Nearly half of the UK population incorrectly believe that antiobiotics can treat cold and flu symptoms and nearly a third of us see our GP about our colds significantly too early.  These unnecessary visits costs the NHS £35.2 million a year and on average an hour a day. To address the problem, this new campaign is urging us all to self-treat winter ailments, such as colds and flu, rather than seeing our GP. The campaign is being supported by a wide range of public health organisations including the Department of Health and Public Health England.

Dr Rob Hicks, GP, comments: “As we move into the winter months, many of us will develop cold and flu, coughs and sore throats, but because people are often unsure how long they can expect to experience their symptoms, many opt to visit their GP unnecessarily in search of antibiotics that are in fact ineffective for viral infections. Remembering that symptoms can persist, but also knowing the important warning signs for when it may be more serious is important.  With colds and flu, the worst symptoms will be over in 4-5 days but complete recovery can take up to 10 days and sometimes longer.” The Treat Yourself Better Without Antibiotics website offers detailed guidance on specific conditions and symptoms, including how long you may experience them, and important warning signs guidance to help you decide when it is appropriate to see your GP. It is important to note that anyone over 65 or with a medical condition or suppressed immune system should consult their GP regardless.

Self-help strategies

Thankfully there are many things we can do ourselves to help us through the worst of our cold symptoms, or even minimise the length of time we’re likely to suffer.

  • Dietary focus: The best way to boost our immune system to ensure we don’t get a cold in the first place is to make sure our diet is full of fresh fruit, vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods. ‘An 80g serving of cherries, for example, is packed with vitamin C as well as natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help fight infection,’ says state registered dietitian, Helen Bond. ‘Seafoods are full of protein needed to make infection-fighting white blood cells to help crowd out viruses. They also contain zinc, which may help shorten the duration of colds. Garlic, chicken soup, live yoghurt and mushrooms are all good, too,’ adds Helen.
  • Keep active: Tempting though it is, don’t sink into couch potato mode. Regular exercise helps to increase the number of immune cells in your bloodstream says US research. So try to do something - a brisk walk, some gardening or a gym session for at least half an hour most days.
  • Natural relief: If you feel your nutrient levels are on the low side, supplementing your diet with a multivitamin designed for your age group could help ensure you stay sniffle free. ‘Specific nutrients that help to mobilise the natural force of the immune system include vitamin C and zinc,’ says GP and medical nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer. “Echinacea is a herbal favourite for warding off winter nasties,’ adds Dr Brewer. And Robert Hobson, Head of Nutrition for Healthspan agrees: “A recent study carried out at the Common Cold research Centre at Cardiff University showed that taking echinacea for four months may reduce the risk of catching a cold and lessen its severity if you do catch one. Healthspan’s Echinacea Cold & Flu Relief is a traditional herbal medicine used to help relieve symptoms of the common cold and influenza, based on traditional use.”

The Treat Yourself Better Without Antibiotics website, www.treatyourselfbetter.co.uk is packed with helpful advice but anyone over 65 or who has an existing medical condition or a suppressed immune systems should visit their GP with any concerns they may have.

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