‘Focus on’ series

Preventing and treating family coughs and colds the natural way

You are likely to catch between two and three colds every year and your children as many as eight1! When everyone around you is coughing and spluttering, it might seem impossible to avoid catching a cold, but there are a few simple things you can do to help you and your family fend off the germs as we approach the winter season.

What causes a cold?

When someone with a cold sneezes or coughs, millions of viruses are launched into the air, which can then land on you or surrounding surfaces helping colds to spread very quickly. Germs can also be easily transferred by hands – so be careful who you’re shaking hands with!

There are as many as 200 different cold viruses capable of infecting the nose and throat in a human, and around one in 20 colds develops into a secondary infection such as bronchitis or sinusitis.

  • Cold viruses can enter the body through the mouth, nose and eyes
  • Symptoms usually start two to three days after infection
  • Colds cause the lining of the nose and throat to become irritated and inflamed
  • Symptoms include blocked or runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, coughing, high temperature, tiredness and headaches

How to prevent the spread of coughs and colds

  • Wash your hands regularly. Colds germs can easily be picked up from surfaces.
  • Use a tissue. When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a tissue, then throw it in the bin – this will help stop infection spreading.
  • Don’t overheat your house – your will be more comfortable in a well-aired room at normal room temperature
  • Avoid smoky atmospheres. As well as exacerbating colds, smoke is a respiratory tract irritant that increases susceptibility to the viruses that cause respiratory infections.
  • Get plenty of rest. The human body is able to fight infections more efficiently when it’s resting, so take some time out from your daily life to recover.
  • Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to boost your immunity and help stave off infection
  • Flush it out! It’s really important to stay hydrated so aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Herbal teas or highly diluted squash also contribute to your daily fluid intake.
  • Feed a cold. Some people lose their appetite if they’re suffering from a cold. If you’re one of them, try to eat little and often with five or six small meals throughout the day. Nutrient rich snacks include homemade soups and smoothies.
  • Ditch the antibiotics. People often visit their doctor with a cough or cold but there isn’t much they can do. In most cases antibiotics are of no use and the best advice is to get under the duvet, drink plenty of fluids and sweat it out.

Why Antibiotics don’t work for colds

Antibiotics are not useful for treating colds because they only kill bacteria, not viruses. The inappropriate use of antibiotics historically has been a major factor in causing bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics that previously were able to kill them and this is still a growing problem around the world.

How to prevent Antibiotic resistance

  • Do not ask your doctor for antibiotics if you or your child has a cold
  • If antibiotics are prescribed for a secondary bacterial infection, take them exactly as instructed – it is important to finish the whole course
  • Do not share antibiotics with anyone else
  • Do not take antibiotics as a preventative measure against bacterial infection when you have a cold. This does not help you prevent a bacterial infection.

Usually cold symptoms last for one to two weeks, although chest colds (bronchitis) typically last two to three weeks. You should consult your GP if symptoms are not improving after ten days or at any time during your child’s illness if they develop a high fever, have difficulty breathing or swallowing, or experience severe headache, severe fatigue or a rash.

More on Kids and Colds

In the UK children skip 16 million school days a year due to coughs and colds2

Colds and coughs are easily passed from one child to the next in schools and nurseries. Children also tend to get a lot more colds than adults because their bodies haven’t had time to build up sufficient immunity – each time our bodies have a virus it builds up immunity against it.

When to take your child to see a doctor

GPs are often overstretched during winter months with many of their consultations taken up with minor ailments such as coughs and colds. In most cases it is not necessary to see your doctor for a cold or cough, instead it’s better to see your pharmacist who can advise you of the best treatment.

However, whilst most coughs and colds run their course without doing any harm, there are certain situations when you or your child should see a GP. These include:

  • If you or your child has a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
  • Mothers of young babies, older and frailer people should seek help if they are unwell.
  • All babies under three months with a temperature of over 38 degrees should be assessed by a doctor, as should babies aged three to six months with a fever higher than 39 degrees.
  • If your child has a headache or abdominal pain.
  • If your child is vomiting but does not have diarrhoea, or has a rash in association with the fever.
  • If a child isn’t playing, eating or drinking normally, and appears floppy or lethargic.
  • If your child’s fever doesn’t respond to paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • If you are at all concerned or in any doubt about your child’s symptoms contact your GP.

How a small plant from South Africa offers Cold Relief worldwide

Pelargonium plant

For centuries, the medicine men of South African tribes have used extracts obtained from the plant Pelargonium sidoides to treat various respiratory infections.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century however, that an Englishman by the name of Major Charles H. Stevens, who was suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection, travelled to South Africa where he was introduced to this traditional medicine. He brought this herbal remedy to Europe under the name of “Steven’s Consumption Cure”.

Nowadays, Pelargonium is grown in specialised farms using ecological cultivation methods and the modern process to manufacture the special Pelargonium extract known as EPs®7630.

Pelargonium sidoides extract EPs®7630 is used in the manufacture of a traditional herbal medicine used to relieve common cold symptoms such as sore throat, cough and runny or blocked nose, exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy dating back to the 1800s.

Pelargonium sidoides EPs®7630 is proven to fight viral infections

Pelargonium sidoides EPs®7630 is antibacterial 3,4, antiviral 5,6, and has secretomotory activity7 (it is able to clear mucus from the respiratory tract). These pharmacological properties enable Pelargonium sidoides EPs®7630 to fight viral and bacterial infections by reducing the ability of the virus or bacteria to multiply in the body, and by increasing the body’s ability to fight the infection.

Pelargonium sidoides EPs®7630 is the most researched herbal cough and cold medicine in the world

Pelargonium sidoides EPs®7630 has been scientifically proven to shorten the duration of upper respiratory tract infections, such as acute bronchitis8 and the common cold9, and reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Much research has been carried out that demonstrates valuable pharmacological activity of extract Pelargonium sidoides EPs®7630. In addition, many clinical trials involving in excess of 9,200 adults and children have been carried out demonstrating the efficacy, safety and tolerability of this natural product with excellent results including a published Cochrane Collaboration meta-analysis10

To find out more about herbal medicines currently available in the UK containing Pelargonium sidoides EPs®7630 please visit our sponsor’s website here.


1 www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/commoncold.shtml – Accessed 30th September 2011

2 Kaloba cold front survey, August 2008, 3,000 respondents, carried out by on-line survey specialists 72 Point

3 Kayser, O. and Kolodziej, H. Antibacterial activity of extracts and constituents of Pelargonium sidoides and Pelargonium reniforme. Planta Medica, 1997, 63: 508-10.

4 Conrad, A. Hansmann, C. Engels, I. Extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs® 7630) improves phagocytosis, oxidative burst, and intracellular killing of human peripheral blood phagocytes in vitro. Phytomedicine. 2007;14(suppl 1):46-51.

5 Koch, E. Wohn, C. Pelargonium sidoides root extract EPs 7630 stimulates release of antimicrobial peptides from neutrophile granulocytes in human whole blood. Planta Medica. 2007;73:846.

6 Conrad, A. Jung, I. Tioua, D. Lallemand, C. Carrapatoso, F. Engels, I. Daschner, F. D. Frank, U. Extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630) inhibits the interactions of group A-streptococci and host epithelia in vitro. Phytomedicine, 2007, 14: 52-9.

7 Neugebauer, P. Mickenhagen, A. Siefer, O. Walger, M. A new approach to pharmacological effects on ciliary beat frequency in cell cultures – exemplary measurements under Pelargonium sidoides extract (EPs 7630). Phytomedicine, 2005, 12: 46-51.

8 Matthys, H. Kamin, W. Funk, P. Heger, M. Pelargonium sidoides preparations (EPs®7630) in the treatment of acute bronchitis in adults and children. Phytomedicine. 2007, 14: 69-73.

9 Lizogub, V. G. Riley, D. S. Heger, M. Efficacy of Pelargonium sidoides preparation in patients with the common cold: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Explore. 2007, 3: 68-79.

110 Timmer A, Gunther J, Rucker G, Motschall E, Antes G, Kern WV. Pelargonium sidoides extract for acute respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews 2008, Issue 3. Art No.: CD006323. DOI: 10.1002/14651858. CD006323.pub2.

Dr Dixon

Sponsored by Schwabe Pharma (UK) Ltd, the UK’s leading licensed herbal medicine company and written exclusively for Women’s Health Concern in conjunction with Dr Michael Dixon, a GP from Devon and Chairman of both the College of Medicine and the NHS Alliance.

This article has been produced by Women’s Health Concern and reviewed by one of our Medical Advisory Panel

Review date: December 2011

Women’s Health Concern is an independent charity and receives no government funding.

© Women’s Health Concern. Charity No. 279651

Email advice: advice@womens-health-concern.org

Website: www.womens-health-concern.org