As we enter into the fall and winter months, we prepare to battle runny noses, fevers, or that persistent cough that just won’t seem to go away. It’s that time of year when cold and flu viruses run rampant, and simply “hoping for the best” isn’t always enough to keep seasonal illnesses at bay. While there are certainly no magic tricks that can guarantee you a sickness-free seasonal transition, there are a number of things you can do to help reduce your chances of catching a cold this year.
Here are five tips for stopping a cold in its tracks, and staying healthy as the temperatures continue to fall.
1. Start with Smart Hygiene
Above all else, the best way to keep from getting sick when cold and flu viruses are most prevalent in the community is to practice smart hygiene habits. These may include any or all of the following:
- Wash hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds.
- Don’t eat, drink, or touch your eyes/mouth/nose/ears without first washing your hands.
- Avoid sneezing directly into your hands; sneeze into the elbow whenever possible.
- Clean household surfaces regularly to avoid spreading germs.
2. Keep Your Immune System Strong
The immune system plays a key role in ensuring good overall health and wellness, and when viruses are spreading throughout the community, it becomes an essential line of defense. Unfortunately, factors such as poor diet, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol use and lack of exercise can all be taxing on the immune system—particularly in those who already suffer from conditions which lead to immunodeficiency. By staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep and being mindful of what you eat each day, you’ll have a leg up when it comes to avoiding a run-in with the common cold.
3. Monitor Your Stress Levels
Despite the commonly accepted notion that stress is a condition of the mind, consistently experiencing stress can lead to a multitude of physical side effects, including suppression of the immune system. With the holidays not far into the future, keeping stress levels low can be easier said than done for many people. Exercise, meditation and yoga are all excellent tools for reducing stress and creating balance, and with consistent practice, these and other stress-relieving activities can help keep you avoid the threat of seasonal illness.
4. Stay Away From People Who Are Sick
There’s no better way to catch a cold than to spend time in close contact with someone who is actively sick. Unfortunately, staying clear of those who are sick isn’t always easy or even possible, as certain obligations require people to congregate indoors throughout the fall and winter months. In situations where you know someone isn’t feeling well—such as a friend or family member—making an effort to give them physical space until they are once again healthy will help to keep you from accidentally catching what they have.
5. Stay Home if You Get Sick!
When all else fails and you’ve caught a cold despite your best efforts to stay healthy, the most important thing you can do is to stay home and avoid public places until you are feeling better. This will not only serve the purpose of promoting a more healthy local community, but will also reduce your chances of contracting an additional illness—not uncommon for those who are already fighting a virus.