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kleenex anti-viral logoMumsnet tips on surviving colds and coughs sponsored by Kleenex® Anti-Viral Tissues

As if February isn't bleak enough, it's also the time when festering lurgies hit with a vengeance and suddenly it's flu-time – big time. Yep, you can bet your last soggy tissue that just when you're congratulating yourself for surviving the winter (relatively) unscathed, the floodgates open to a sea of lurid green snot – most of which, if you're the proud owner of small and similarly snotty children, will find its way down your best top.

But aside from battening down the hatches and chalking a great big X on your front door, is there any way to keep the bugs at bay? Can you really boost your immune system to DEFCON 1 just by necking a few vitamins or some vile concoction brewed under the light of a full moon? And if you do succumb to some ghastly virus, what can you do to make it go away really, really quickly? For the answers to all these (and more), we consulted the oracle that is Mumsnet and came up with this rather handy MN guide to surviving winter sniffles with a clean(ish) top and a snot-free smile.

Avoiding the plague (maybe Howard Hughes was on to something)...

  • Wash your hands frequently and teach your family to do the same. Keep surfaces - including piano keys and computer key boards - clean and dry. 3littlefrogs (tip 1).
  • Keep nails very short. Ensure everyone in the house blows their nose into a tissue and throws it straight in the bin. Wrap up well (hat, scarf, gloves, thick socks) when you go out to avoid variations in temperature. Wash gloves, scarves and hats often. BonsoirAnna
  • Wear gloves in public and on public transport. Don't use money - use your cards. And if you smell nitrous oxide on anyone's breath, hold you own breath and turn away to breathe - their nose is making this gas to kill bugs they already have and they are infectious. Nitrous oxide smells 'cold' and metallic. Zazen (tip 1) (who will forevermore be known by MNHQ as Jack Bauer) 
  • Avoid licking/kissing the petri dishes that are toddlers. Especially those ones with streaming green snot on their faces. Whomovedmychocolate (tip 1)
  • Don't work/help out in a school. OhYouBadBadKitten
  • Spend 20 years or so attending every toddler group you can, helping in every class you can, and, for bonus points, have a spell working in childcare. You'll end up with an immune system second to none and be impervious to most bugs. Hassled
  • I'm sure I heard somewhere that sex is good for the immune system... MrsGrouchoMarxMerryHenry (tip 1)
  • Hmm, that might be good for the girls, but less so for the boys - they lose a fair bit of zinc with every ejaculation and zinc is necessary for healthy immune systems. Thumbwitch (tip 1)
  • Stay AWAY from the GP's surgery - that's the biggest hothouse for new germs. Thumbwitch (tip 2)
  • Don't go out. Staying in is the new going out. You have Tesco online and MN - what more do you need? People out there are infectious, avoid them! Flossish
  • Don't have children! Threadworm

Going on the offensive...

  • I give the kids nothing more than honey and lemon drinks - a good cold builds their immune system! HuwEdwards
  • Manuka honey! Apparently it can even kill off MRSA. Nectar of the gods. MrsGrouchoMarxMerryHenry (tip 2)
  • Get the flu vaccine. It's not just for grannies you know. Carmenere
  • Echinacea. I take it for a month to boost my immunity. You can also get the drops for children. I haven't had so much as a sniffle all winter. Sidge
  • Loads of garlic, vitamin C, elderberry extract (Sambucol) and sleep (though sadly you can't get the latter delivered by Sainsbury's). Expatinscotland
  • Melrose - it keeps lips from becoming chapped. In my experience, once you get a cracked/chapped lip, you get a cold. Solo
  • Pharmaton. If it's good enough for Ellen MacArthur, it's good enough for me and I never get a cold. Monkeytrousers
  • Propolis. It's brilliant for avoiding colds in the first place. Get capsules, though, because it smells exactly like you'd expect ground-up bees to smell. Horton
  • Kiki Nature's Living Superfood. It's expensive and tastes like licking out the bottom of your fridge's veg compartment when you haven't cleaned it for three months but it works wonders at stopping you getting run down or boosting you up after a cold. FrannyandZooey
  • Hang garlic around everyone's neck and give them each a cup of hot lemon and honey. (Betchya really keen to come over for supper now, eh?) Slur

But if you succumb...

  • Use tissues to cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing. And either flush them or put them straight in the bin. Don't shake hands with others if you have a cold. 3littlefrogs (tip 2 )
  • Stockpile dry goods, freeze vast quantities of milk and cheese, and seal off your house from October to March. Be sure to have lots of board games and books. Hot steamy baths and whisky macs help, too (although not recommended for toddlers). TheDevilWearsPrimark
  • Stay at home. I'd rather one person was off work briefly than seven people sneezing and groaning all round me because of the extra infection. Work at home, I say! Habbibu

Your duties as head nurse (or soldiering-on patient)...

  • Buy soft tissues and loo roll. Do not skimp on these things - there's nothing worse than blowing a sore nose on chipboard-type paper. Whomovedmychocolate (tip 2)
  • For coughs, send the kids to bed with a glass of warm water mixed with honey. Put 2-3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil in a bowl of steaming hot water and leave it in their room so they breathe the vapours in during the night. A hot bath with eucalyptus in it works, too. Also use a good vitamin tonic: if kids aren't eating, it can take them ages to get back on their feet; tonic's full of the vitamins and minerals they need to build their immunity back up again. And make sure they drink plenty of water. Rhubarb
  • Air the house daily (but, obviously, don't sit ill person in the draft). Napisan/germ spray the obvious places - loo handle, bathroom door handle, fridge door handle. Give kids a probiotic yoghurt daily - adults can take probiotic vitamins, vitamin C and zinc. Use saline drops or spray for kids' snotty noses - great for non-nose blowing toddlers. Use snot suckers, if necessary. Rosa
  • For colds/sore throats/sore chests etc, this always works: cup of tea (any type) and then add 2 tsp of Manuka honey, a few slices of fresh ginger and a few slices of lemon. Tastes really lovely, too. Parachutes
  •   If you've got gunk at the back of your throat that's preventing you sleeping, nibble at dry toast without chewing it much. It kinda 'scrapes' the gunk down with it and gives your throat a nice gentle scratch at the same time. StarlightMcKenzie
  • Saline water (1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp bicarb in 1 litre tepid water) breathed up through your nostrils to clear sinuses... And chicken soup. Nagapie (MNHQ note: the soup is for eating, not sniffing)
  • Menthol crystals: put in bowl of hot water, stick a towel over your head and prepare for take off. It will blow your head off. TonyAlmeida
  • See a doctor if you've had a productive cough for more than ten days. Pneumonia lives on that phlegm in your lungs, so you probably need antibiotics if you've a lot of it. Zazen (tip 2)
  • George Clooney on DVD. OneLieIn

When man flu strikes good partners go bad...

  • Treat with all available drugs on the market, a bottle of Lucozade (like their mum used to!), cans of tomato soup, some crackers and, most importantly, desertion. Leave them on their own while you do something more interesting - for days if possible. Leoness
  • Go totally over the top with sympathy: cold compresses; special soft tissues; making sure they're warm enough at every opportunity; appearing to be genuinely worried and wondering aloud if you ought to call the doctors; stroking brow; asking in soothing tones 'How are you feeling now?' just slightly too often. Freaks. Them. Out. Never seen such a quick recovery. plantsitter
  • Slam bedroom door behind you. Ignore all hammering on floors from above. Doodle2U
  • Offer to put them out of their misery and shoot them. Paperchase

None of the above working? Laid low in the snottiest way imaginable? Then languish on the sofa in front of back-to-back episodes of A Place in the Sun and fine-tune your version of Lulalullabye's ultimate sniffle-busting advice: "Move to another country."

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Last updated: 18-Feb-2009 at 9:18 PM