Autumn is here and with it the inevitable onset of the cold and flu season. The flu tends to peak around December and wane from February/March. You can catch a cold all year round, but it does appear to be more prevalent during the cold months.

Research suggests that the flu virus thrives in colder, dry weather – having said that, it can also survive in more humid climates, so scientists are still not entirely sure how the cold and flu viruses behave in the environment. It does appear, though, that cold air affects our nasal passages, slowing down mucus clearance, which is the first line of defence when it comes to upper respiratory tract infections.

Viruses like the common cold and flu, along with any inhaled bacteria, are caught by your nasal mucus. It's then swallowed, with any infection getting destroyed by your stomach acid. Colder air can impede this process.

In addition to the climate, our lifestyles are different during autumn and winter, increasing susceptibility to colds and flu. We aren't exposed to enough sunlight to boost our vitamin D and strengthen immunity. We also shut ourselves in, closing windows, while sharing the same circulating air as infected people. 

If you always get ill during winter, or you'd like to protect yourself as much as you can, there are natural ways you can fend off colds and flu and shorten their duration should you become ill. Here are 8 natural ways to defend yourself against colds and flu.