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Coughs and colds account for between two and five illnesses per adult per year, with those figures rising as we reach senior ages. As autumn sets in the incidence of coughs, colds and ‘flu rises, peaking through the winter months and settling back down again in the spring. So seniors can expect to spend a noticeable portion of the next few months fighting off the rhinovirus (otherwise known as the common cold) – or, more seriously, the orthomyxoviruses that cause influenza.

While prevention is always better than cure (so eating your greens, getting plenty of exercise and ensuring a good dose of vitamin C in your diet), the statistics speak a much plainer truth. We’re all going to get a cold or two this winter. Understanding how to minimise its disruption is the key to enjoying any cold, clear days that come your way in the run-up to Christmas – when no-one wants to be stuck on the sofa behind a barricade of used tissues and self-pity!

A cough can be a wretched symptom of the cold virus – less painful than being bunged up, perhaps, but with an unholy ability to wear you down over days and even weeks. Once you’ve seen a doctor it’s easier to understand how to treat each type properly: knowing what causes a cough, and how your treatment can help, gives you a better chance of picking the right medicine in the first place.

Some coughs produce phlegm or catarrh – a mixture of mucus and irritant particles, which may in the case of a heavy cold or full blown flu include damaged cells. Other types of cough bring up nothing, but cause an intense tickling or itching sensation in the throat and chest. Some brands offer up to twelve different medicines which tackle all sorts of symptoms such as blocked noses, sinus pressure and sinus pain.  If you are unsure what medicine is best to use for your specific ailment, your pharmacist is usually able to help and you have a choice of tablets, liquids, capsules and sprays! With your coughs and colds he or she can point you in the direction of the product most likely to give relief.  Be aware that symptoms including elevated temperature, dizziness and severe aching may indicate a dose of ‘flu – which can be a much more serious illness than the common cold. Seniors are considered to be in an “at risk” category for seasonal flu, and official Government guidelines recommend that you have your vaccine as soon as it is offered by your GP. Have you had yours yet?