5 ways you can protect yourself from illness during cold season

1. Avoid other people

“My number one tip is to keep what I call ‘sensible distancing’ from coughs and sneezes,” says Professor Oxford. “If you’re on a Tube or train and somebody is coughing or sniffling, move away. Create as much distance between them and you as possible.”

But with a recent study from Aviva finding one in seven British people go to work when they have a bad cold, how can you keep from contagious colleagues? “That’s trickier,” admits Professor Oxford. “Nobody likes to be seen as a wimp when it comes to work, but from an infection point of view it’s better to nurse the worst of your cold at home than brave it out and infect all your co-workers.

“If you do have a cold at work, sneeze into a clean tissue and discard it immediately – don’t tuck it up your sleeve or leave it rolled up on your desk, which can spread infection further. If you don’t have a tissue to hand, never sneeze into your bare hand but rather the crease of your arm – the so-called elbow sneeze. It’ll help contain the contagion from spreading, because nobody ever shakes you by the elbow.”

2. Wash your hands – a lot

Hands, says Professor Oxford, are “perhaps the most fruitful way for winter viruses to spread”. He advises washing them twice as often in winter – particularly if your job involves greeting people throughout the day, or if you work in an office and touch things touched by others, such as door handles, lift buttons, office kettles and so on.

“Wash your hands regularly throughout the day with soap and pretty hot water,” says Professor Oxford. “Never use the cold tap, because germs don’t like hot water.”

3. Swap sandwiches for soup

“Hot foods and drinks are perfect for this time of year,” says wellness expert Jasmine Hemsley, author of East By West, a book on adopting Ayurvedic principles to western living. “It’s logical to think seasonally about what we’re eating and drinking.”

A recent study found that drinking any warm liquid – like tea, soup or stew – helps relieve cold and flu symptoms by helping to loosen congestion and stimulate the flow of mucus. Plus, they help keep you hydrated, which can also reduce the risk of picking up a cough or cold.

“Help your digestion by avoiding iced foods and chilled drinks, and stick to sipping warm water throughout the day,” says Jasmine. “I also drink a lot of ginger or fennel tea in the winter to curb those winter snacking cravings. And try adding warming and immunity-boosting spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and cumin – all of which can be enjoyed all year round, but especially amped up at this time of year in your everyday cooking. Cooked foods are easier on the digestion and go for plenty of greens like cabbage and kale.”

4. Clear the air in your lungs

If you don’t fancy throwing open the windows and letting all the warmth out of your home, go for a walk. Outdoors – away from old, damp, central-heated air – sneezers often find that their sniffles stop on the spot.

According to personal trainer James Duigan (whose clients at his Notting Hill gym have included Pippa Matthews, nee Middleton), “walking in fresh air is the best medicine there is. And this time of year, I always tell my clients that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” So wrap up and get out every day to feel better all winter.

5. Clear the air in your lungs

If you don’t fancy throwing open the windows and letting all the warmth out of your home, go for a walk. Outdoors – away from old, damp, central-heated air – sneezers often find that their sniffles stop on the spot.

According to personal trainer James Duigan (whose clients at his Notting Hill gym have included Pippa Matthews, nee Middleton), “walking in fresh air is the best medicine there is. And this time of year, I always tell my clients that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” So wrap up and get out every day to feel better all winter.