Cold season typically starts in August, with cold incidence rising until it peaks in February — so folks, your chance of catching the sniffles only goes up from here. Take precautions and follow these 16 simple steps to help reduce your risk and keep you functioning at your best.
OK, so it’s an obvious one, but it’s also a crucial one. You should be washing your hands frequently, especially during cold season and particularly after using the bathroom, blowing your nose or coughing/sneezing into your hands (which you shouldn’t do anyway — use the crook of your elbow) and touching waste (e.g., taking out the trash or changing a baby’s diaper). Always wash your hands before preparing food or eating.
And do it right! This isn’t hand “rinsing.” Use the soap and wash for AT LEAST 20 seconds.
Potentially harmful germs tend to accumulate in the areas you use the most — this includes your workspace.
“Computer keyboards, telephones, doorknobs, pens that are given to you when you sign for a credit card purchase or in a doctor’s office — all of these are surfaces that have great potential for harboring germs,” says Neil Schachter, professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, on WebMD.
Use antiseptic wipes to give your phone and desktop a good sanitizing. And beware of other germy places at the office — a recent study found these places harbored the most bacteria: breakroom sink faucet handles, microwave door handles, keyboards, refrigerator door handles, water fountain buttons and vending machine buttons.
The benefits of exercise are endless — and cold prevention happens to be one of them. According to WebMD, increasing your heart rate for just 20 minutes three times a week helps increase immune function. Not big on aerobics? Try taking a brisk walk five days a week — it can also lower your chance of catching a cold.
It’s important to note, however, that too much of a good thing — including exercise — can be detrimental. While moderate exercise can boost the immune system, more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can leave you susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after your workout. Moderation and consistency is key!
Since we use our hands to pick up things, shake hands and do practically everything, they tend to accumulate a plethora of germs. Even if you’re washing your hands frequently, there are plenty of opportunities to re-contaminate.
You might consider it common sense to not touch your face with those hands, but one study showed that people, on average, touch their faces 3.6 times every hour. It may take some focus and self-training, but teach yourself to keep your hands away from your face. Your immune system will thank you for it.
If you really want to prevent future colds, you should become BFFs with disinfectants like Lysol, which you can use to spray frequently touched areas of the home, such as keyboards, door knobs, drawer handles, light switches and remote controls.
Now there’s a preventive strategy you can really get behind! Moderate drinking — particularly red wine — has actually been linked to higher cold resistance, except in smokers (don’t smoke!).
Researchers have two theories that could possibly explain this effect: According to Rodale, alcohol could limit the replication of cold viruses or could have an anti-inflammatory effect that suppresses the production of mucus.
As always, moderation is important — heavy consumption of alcohol could have the opposite effect, suppressing the immune system.