ANGELA EPSTEIN: What’s behind the hacking cough that’s making everyone feel so bad?

From Covid to the flu and nasty cold making the rounds, most people seem to be battling a virus right now.

So much so that pharmacies have sold out of cold and flu remedies like Lemsip.

There are several factors behind this wave of disease, says Neil Mabbott, professor of immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh.

“In recent winters there has been limited indoor mingling along with widespread use of face coverings and social distancing. We are now mingling indoors and using public transport much more and in larger groups to give these common infectious diseases greater opportunities to spread.’

The situation is made worse by the fact that a particularly virulent cold seems to be circulating this winter, says Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London.

There are several factors behind this wave of disease, says Neil Mabbott, professor of immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh

There are several factors behind this wave of disease, says Neil Mabbott, professor of immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh

There are several factors behind this wave of disease, says Neil Mabbott, professor of immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh

“The current one appears to be highly contagious and brings with it a really persistent hacking cough,” he told Good Health.

John Oxford, a professor emeritus of virology at Queen Mary, University of London, agrees.

“It’s been an exceptional winter so far,” he says. “There seems to be a lot of infections. There are also dozens of cold viruses, and we can get reinfected with any of them.’

And then there’s the so-called “immunity gap,” adds Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at Norwich Medical School. This is the result of lockdowns reducing our usual exposure to seasonal viruses so that now that they are back in circulation we have little natural immunity to them. And the longer the previous exposure, the greater our chance of catching an infection.

From Covid to the flu and nasty cold making the rounds, most people seem to be battling a virus right now. So much so that pharmacies have sold out of cold and flu remedies like Lemsip

From Covid to the flu and nasty cold making the rounds, most people seem to be battling a virus right now. So much so that pharmacies have sold out of cold and flu remedies like Lemsip

From Covid to the flu and nasty cold making the rounds, most people seem to be battling a virus right now. So much so that pharmacies have sold out of cold and flu remedies like Lemsip

‘So if someone has been exposed to the flu three months after their original attack, they are unlikely to develop the disease again,’ says Professor Hunter.

“If exposure occurs a year later, it can lead to a normal attack of flu – uncomfortable but not dangerous as they don’t have high levels of antibodies to it, but at least they will have some.”

“But now there is a three-year gap between previous and current exposure to the flu, and this can lead to a severe form of the flu.” The same can apply to other respiratory infections.

How long we succumb to a virus — and how long it takes before we feel normal — depends on factors such as the infection, your vaccination status, previous infections, and your age. But is there anything we can do to speed up recovery?

Most medications target the symptoms rather than the cause, so they don’t speed recovery, says Professor Hunter. Prescription antivirals can do this, but are usually only offered for severe flu in those at risk.

“For most people, by the time they know it’s the flu, it’s too late and they do little to help,” says Professor Hunter. (Studies show that antiviral drugs work best when started within two days of becoming ill.)

A more accessible form of treatment is sleep. A 2019 study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that a good night’s sleep can increase the function of T cells — white blood cells that kill invading bacteria and viruses.

“The circadian rhythms of our bodies [24-hour cycle] and nighttime sleep play an important role in regulating our immune system,” explains Professor Mabbott.

“Therefore, disrupted sleep can reduce the effectiveness of our immune responses, either to infection or to vaccines.”

dr Steven Kinnear, a Bangor-based GP in County Down, says: “As sleep is vital to recovery, I use the Calpol Vapor Plug & Nightlight pediatric remedy, which can prevent a stuffy nose from interfering with my rest.” ( The fumes help decongest, he says.)

Good food helps too. “Think of a Mediterranean diet rich in colorful plants, each with their own array of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients,” says Dr. Jenna Macciochi, Lecturer in Immunology at Sussex University and author of Your Blueprint For Strong Immunity.

“Also focus on protein as this provides the building blocks for the various components of our immune system. Additionally, your tissues may have been damaged by the infection — protein is important for rebuilding and repairing.”

She suggests omega-3 supplements because these fats are the raw materials for our immune system’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms (to shut down inflammation and aid in repair and recovery).

Part of the reason we’re advised to drink plenty of fluids is to thin mucus so it drains more easily and relieves congestion, says Dr. Kinnear.

“But limit your alcohol consumption,” adds Dr. Roger Henderson, Shropshire General Practitioner. “Too much can lead to vitamin deficiencies, which can compromise your immune system.”

And stick to your training. “Overwhelming yourself before you’re ready can set you back and make you even more exhausted,” says Dr. Gavin Francis, general practitioner and author of Recovery: The Lost Art Of Convalescence. “It’s important to know that it’s okay to rest a little – and that it may take a few weeks to get better.”

Recovery is an essential part of recovery, agrees Dr. Macciochi to. “In today’s fast-paced world, we feel like we don’t have time to be sick – we’re all looking for a quick fix and then quickly getting back to our normal lives,” she says. “Recovery takes time. Health does not begin when acute symptoms end.”

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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Brian Ashcraft

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