Seven Ways to Avoid the Common Cold

October 31st 2015

Diana Crandall

Cold season is just around the corner, and everybody is familiar with the beginning signs of the virus that manifests itself first as a tickle in the back of the throat or a sneeze. Nasal congestion, a runny nose, a cough, or watering eyes can all follow, all symptoms of a respiratory infection that can last up to three weeks.

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To avoid getting a cold in the first place, here are a few tips to help you stay healthy this fall and winter.

1. If you have to fly, prepare for germs

Airplanes are an easy place to get sick

Holiday travelers acknowledge it, and frequent fliers own it: An airplane is a germ wonderland. Planes host things far worse than the common cold, CNN reports, and nasty bacteria and viruses can lurk in and around tray tables and seat pockets.

Consider bringing disinfectant wipes to give your sitting area a quick once over, and make sure you never drink the water on an airplane unless it comes from a bottle.

2. Wash your hands

Wash your hands well and frequently

This might seem obvious, but we don’t do it enough. Touching surfaces such as door handles or a computer mouse and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes is a perfect way to introduce bugs into your system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention walks you through the most effective way to wash your hands.

3. Check out your grocery store

Grocery store inspections aren't as frequent or thorough as you might think

Grocery stores are surprisingly dirty places. Hundreds of hands touch shopping carts and other items, making it easy for you to pick up their germs.

Given who is handling your food, the common cold can sometimes be the least of your worries. The CDC reported in 2011 that about 48 million Americans get sick and 3,000 die of food-borne diseases each year.

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According to the Huffington Post, many of these diseases could potentially be avoided if more inspectors adequately inspected food and the conditions under which it is grown, transported and sold. Looking into how clean your grocery store is might pay off in the long run.

4. Drink less alcohol

Drink less alcohol

Before you reach for a nightcap, consider this: Researchers at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that “an overwhelming amount of evidence reveals that both acute and chronic alcohol exposure suppresses all branches of the immune system.”

This suggests that even one night of heavy drinking can make you more likely to get sick. Maybe you should skip the booze.

5. Eat your vegetables

Eat your vegetables

Mom was right. According to the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, eating leafy greens can boost your immune system. Cruciferous vegetables in particular have chemicals that help white blood cells fight off infection. Just make sure you wash your veggies well before eating them.

6. Take probiotics regularly

Probiotics are found in yogurt

Have you eaten yogurt lately? If so, you may have gotten a good serving of probiotics, a type of good bacteria you can find in foods such as yogurt and pickles. Abinash Virk works in infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic and told the Chicago Tribune that taking probiotics regularly can help prevent the common cold. (You can also take probiotics in an over-the-counter pill.)

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7. Wipe everything down

Use disinfectant wipes to clean up anything a sick person has touched

If anyone in your home does end up sick this winter, it's important for you to wipe down doorknobs, surfaces, light switches, and cell phones to keep everyone else from coming down with another cold and starting the whole cycle over, CBS News reports.

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