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Winter survival guide

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Winter survival guide colds coughs hibernate immune system germs

It’s natural to think that winter will always mean colds, coughs, dry skin and a general desire to hibernate. But it doesn’t have to be like that, even in chilly, damp Britain.

There are some really sensible and novel ideas out there to help you keep well this winter.

For example, simply changing your pillow cases regularly could stave off a nasty bug. Clean pillow cases once a week will prevent germs festering – and if the person you share a bed with is under the weather you might want to do this daily. Use a hot wash.

Once tucked up in bed you can boost your immune system by simply sleeping. Research from Yale University suggests that if you sleep for less than seven hours a night you could be three times more likely to catch a cold than someone who gets eight hours.

When you do venture out from under the duvet you could do worse than walk around an indoor shopping mall. Winter weather can trigger joint pain, so exercise in a warn environment can be a positive move (if not for your wallet). While you are shopping you could pop into a chemist for a flu jab – for less than a round of drinks you can gain immunity (but check first whether you are eligible for a free one).

Outdoors the challenge might be to avoid a fall on icy or snowy pavements. Some 7,000 hospital admissions a year are caused by such accidents. The experts recommend wearing firm shoes with a good grip and walking in a way that maximises the foot's gripping surface area - strike the ground with heels first, but try to stomp your whole foot down, rather than rocking from heel to toe.

Or you could get the bus. It’s often believed that travelling on public transport is an ideal way to catch a cold or even the flu – and there may be good reason to think this. Germ-filled droplets can fly as far as 3.5 metres through the air. So if someone close to you is coughing or sneezing, turn your head away for ten seconds, then change seats if you can.

The final part of the year brings with it the party season – another potential danger area with all of that hand shaking and kissing. One simple tip to avoid germs is to eat with your left hand. The most common transmission of cold germs is when people sneeze into their hands then touch others. So hold your plate in your right hand and the food in your left.

And don’t overdo the booze, say the experts. Alcohol might make you feel warm at first, but you may end up feeling colder in the long run because blood is driven away from internal organs, causing body temperature to drop.

When the festive season does arrive there is a new danger – the Christmas tree, believe it or not. Getting a plastic tree out of storage can trigger a blocked nose, streaming eyes, asthma or eczema. Artificial trees can attract mould, dust and even house mites, so give it a clean before you hang the baubles up.

Then you can look forward to a healthy, germ-free Christmas.