THESE past few weeks, I have noticed a growing number of people with coughs and colds and the occasional man flu sufferer in there too. The common cold and most coughs are caused by viruses, so your GP won’t want to prescribe any anti-biotics as they are only effective for bacterial infections.

There are more than 200 common cold viruses and three types of flu virus, with many different strains, so they're hard to avoid. These viruses can be spread through droplets that are coughed and sneezed out by an infected person. The viruses can also be transferred via a person's fingers or surfaces, such as door handles, if there are infected droplets on them.

The virus enters the body via the nose or eyes. If you have infected droplets on your fingers and you touch your eyes or nose, the virus can enter your body.

While coughs and colds can make you feel very unwell, there’s usually no need to see your doctor unless they last for more than three weeks. You can help yourself by eating the right foods and drinking plenty of fluids to ease the symptoms and help build resistance.

You need to stay hydrated, especially if you are running a temperature - a hot body sweats more and loses more fluid. Warm drinks rich in vitamin C, such as fresh orange juice or hot water with a spoonful of honey and a slice of lemon are great. Honey works wonders on a sore throat too. Choose a good quality honey, organic or fresh from a farm are the best. Children are especially prone to coughs and colds as their immune systems are still developing. Children can be treated using some over-the-counter painkillers, to ease discomfort and help bring down a fever.

There are some benefits, particularly for children, in catching a few coughs and colds. Children tend to get a lot of colds because the body takes time to build up immunity. Your body learns to fight off a particular kind of virus every time you get an infection. To help boost your immune system and build up resistance make sure you eat foods with plenty of antioxidant vitamins such as A, C and E. Go for green, orange, red and purple fruit and veg. Zinc is a mineral that also helps boost your immune system. It is found in all lean meats, poultry, egg yolks, fish, oats, brown rice, nuts and seeds.

There are vitamin supplements out there, but I would always advise people to try and get all the vitamins from a good varied diet.