7 Surprising Things You Can Do to Help Prevent Colds
It might be called “the common cold,” but there’s nothing common about it. There are more than 200 kinds of viruses that cause colds, and spread from person to person. Not only that, here’s a surprising fact: Cold germs can actually live on surfaces like doorknobs for several hours.
So how can you defend yourself against colds in the first place? Strengthen your immune system. Here are 7 tips that can help you boost yours with a more surprising approach to cold prevention than you might expect.
1. Take a Hike, a Walk, or a Spin Class
Exercise is good for boosting your immune system, which is powered by white blood cells — your body’s defense system against disease. Studies show that being active is beneficial to white blood cells, getting them to circulate more rapidly. A quick 30 minutes of exercise is all it takes!
2. Watch Your Weight
You already know being overweight can put you at risk for certain health conditions. But it can also cause your body to be in a chronic state of inflammation — and that can make it tougher to fight off infection. Losing weight can give your immune system a chance to fend off colds.
3. Eat More Yogurt
We know eating foods high in vitamin C helps prevent colds. Another way to give your immune system a boost is by eating yogurt. Researchers suspect that yogurt, which is full of good bacteria, can stimulate production of virus-attacking white blood cells and help the immune system.
4. Fill Up on Fish
Besides being delicious, seafood is a great choice for fighting illness. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish (especially in fatty salmon and tuna) help your body produce anti-inflammatory substances, which can help immune function. Aim for 2 to 3 servings of fish twice a week.
5. Soak Up Some Sun
Surprised? Well, your body actually needs exposure to the sun in order to produce vitamin D, and studies show that vitamin D can reduce the risk of respiratory illness. Just 10 to 15-minute blocks of sun twice a week — without sunscreen — is all you need, according to the National Institutes of Health.
6. Wash Those Hands.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch; that includes touching surfaces where cold germs can live, and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. When washing your hands, be sure to use soap and water, then rub them together for a minimum of 20 seconds, scrubbing between fingers and under fingernails.
7. Get Some Sleep
Studies show that a lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, making you more likely to catch a cold when exposed to germs. Here’s why:
- As you sleep, your immune system produces proteins called cytokines. To fight infection or inflammation, your body needs to increase production of certain types of cytokines. Less sleep means less production.
- Lack of sleep also reduces the production of antibodies that fight infection. So, what does “enough sleep” mean? For adults, it means 7 to 8 hours a night; teens need 9 to 10 hours; kids need 10 or more hours.
BONUS TIP: A daily saline rinse of your nasal passages can keep them moist and help clear out the bacteria, viruses, and irritants that can cause a cold. Use a neti pot with a saltwater solution, or try a natural saline spray like ARM & HAMMER™ Simply Saline™ Instant Relief to irrigate and moisturize your sinus and nasal passages — and to help prevent congestion.
Boosting your immunity is a smart way to help prevent colds. While there are plenty of things you can do, these 7 tips are an easy place to start.
• “Exercise and Immunity.” MedlLinePlus, medlineplus.gov. Web. 8 February 2017.
• Stork, Travis. “The Truth About Your Immune System.” Healthy Living Made Simple Nov/Dec 2013: 32 - 33. Print.
• Magee, Elaine. “The Benefits of Yogurt.” WebMD. WebMD LLC, 7 March 2007. Web. 4 December 2013.
• “22 Ways to Prevent the Cold This Year.” All You. Time Inc. Lifestyle Group, n.d. Web. 4 December 2013.
• ”Common Cold Prevention.” Web MD. Web. 9 February 2017.
• Olson, Dr. Eric J. ”Lack of Sleep: Can It Make You Sick?” Mayo Clinic. Web. 9 February 2017.
• Wells, Elizabeth. “6 Natural Cold-Prevention Strategies”, RealSimple.com. CNN Health. Web. 9 February 2017.
Tips to freshen things up
Cold or Flu? Ouch.
If it’s a cold, you may have mild achiness. If it’s flu, you may have severe muscle or body aches.
Fight Flu with Fluids
Drink juices, water, electrolyte drinks and broth-based soups with the flu to avoid dehydration.
Keep Your Nose Clean
Use a daily saline rinse to keep nasal passages moist & wash away bacteria, viruses and irritants.
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