Easy ways to prevent a cold

Posted on September 16, 2015 by Brynna Gabrielson

Easy ways to prevent a coldWith summer dwindling to a close and autumn on its way in, cold and flu season isn't as far away as one would hope. Especially now that kids are back in school, potentially passing germs back and forth. Getting a cold is no picnic - drippy noses, scratchy throats and rumbling coughs aren't fun to deal with - and it can leave you out of commission for days if it's bad enough, throwing a wrench in your day to day life. With that in mind, we've put together this quick list of easy tips to incorporate into your daily life to help keep those nasty colds at bay!

1. Get enough sleep

Getting a good night's sleep isn't just about making sure you're refreshed for the coming day, it can also be an important ingredient in maintaining a healthy immune system. A recent study conducted in the US found that those who slept six hours or less a night were four times more susceptible to catching a cold than those who slept for seven hours or more1. So to keep those colds away make sure you're getting a good night of sleep every night. If you're having trouble sleeping, check out this article for some helpful tips to get a better night's rest.

2. Exercise

Multiple studies have shown a positive correlation between exercising and preventing colds.  For example, one study of 1,000 adults found that regular exercise can reduce the chances of catching a cold by 50%2. How exactly does exercise help? The researchers say that when we exercise we spark a rise of immune cells which circulate around our bodies. The result is temporary, but each time you exercise you're giving your immune system a boost3!

3. Wash your hands

You've probably been told over and over (most likely by your parents) to wash your hands. It's good advice - especially during cold and flu season. According to the NHS, while most cold viruses will only last on your hands for a few minutes, 40% of rhinoviruses - a virus that causes colds - can last on hands for up to an hour.4 So make sure to wash your hands as often as possible - especially before eating. And for good measure, avoid touching your eyes and nose as viruses can enter your system through them5.

4. Keep surfaces clean

This one is a bit of a continuation from the previous tip. While cold causing viruses can live on human tissue for up to an hour, they can have a much lengthier life on hard, non-porous surfaces. In fact some can live for up to seven days6! Think light switches, the remote control, your keyboard at work, your mobile phone, sink taps - you get the picture. To keep viruses from spreading through your home or work space, try and keep surfaces clean - especially things that get touched often and by multiple people. Keeping some anti-bacterial wipes on hand is a good idea. And if you're out in public, well it may be best to avoid making contact with surfaces others have frequently touched. If it's unavoidable, then as we said in our previous point - wash your hands!

5. Reduce stress

Stress can wreak havoc on all parts of our lives - even our immune systems. Studies have shown that those who suffer from prolonged stress are more likely to develop a cold than those who don't. When we're stressed and feel anxious we produce more of the hormone cortisol, which is meant to dampen our immune systems - in particular our inflammatory response.  In the case of a cold, symptoms like coughing, sneezing etc are actually inflammatory responses to the virus in our body - so in theory those producing more cortisol should experience fewer symptoms. However, research is showing that those with long term stress are actually becoming less sensitive to cortisol and are thus unable to regulate inflammatory responses when they are exposed to a cold virus7. So if you want to stop colds from running rampant in your body, work to reduce your stress levels.

If you've already caught a cold and are looking to ease your symptoms, then check out this article on how acupuncture and pressure points can relieve nasal congestion.

Sources

1. The Guardian: Sleep shortage increases susceptibility to catching a cold
2. BBC: Exercise 'can prevent a cold', a study shows
3. BBC: Exercise 'can prevent a cold', a study shows
4. NHS: How long do bacteria and viruses live outside the body?
5. NHS: Preventing colds and flu
6. NHS:How long do bacteria and viruses live outside the body?
7. CNN: Why stress makes colds more likely

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