Cold Prevention Tips to Keep You Healthy This Winter
February 12, 2019 | Category: Articles
A scratchy throat, a runny nose — you know the warning signs that a cold is coming on. The average adult gets between two and three colds a year and the average cold lasts for a little more than one week1. While colds aren’t life-threatening, they can seriously cramp your style.
Cold viruses might be all around, and it can seem tricky to keep a cold away, especially in the winter when you’re likely spending more time indoors and more time around people who are also sniffling, sneezing, and coughing. Technology has contributed in the fight against colds, particularly the Weather Channel’s Cold & Flu Forecast which allows you to see how many people are reported having a cold in your area. If the cold and flu is highly active where you live, it might be best to keep hand sanitizer in your bag and avoid crowded public places. But since it’s nearly impossible to become a complete recluse when the cold and flu threat is high, there are a few natural things you can try to keep a cold at bay.
Try a Saline Rinse
Rinsing the nasal passages, using a saline (saltwater) solution, can help to flush out dust, debris, and viruses, lowering your risk of developing a cold. Using a saline rinse can also add moisture to your nasal passages, helping you feel more comfortable in heated, dry environments.
You have a few choices when it comes to rinsing your nasal passages with saline. One option is to use a traditional Neti Pot, which looks like a small teapot with an elongated spout. You fill the pot with saline, tilt your head to one side, place the tip of the spout in one nostril, and lift the pot so that the saline flows into the nostril.
The saltwater should flow into one nostril, then out the other. Depending on the angle of your head, some of the saline might travel down your throat. That might make you cough but won’t hurt you.
Other saline rinse methods include using a small rubber syringe, a dropper pre-filled with saltwater, or a high-tech gadget that sprays saline into the nostrils.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), saline nasal rinse devices are usually effective and safe to use2. The FDA advises that you use distilled or boiled, then cooled, water if you are preparing the saltwater solution yourself. It also recommends following the directions included with the nasal rinse device to get the best results. Proper cleaning of the devices is important so that you don’t reintroduce any potential germs back into your system. Hot soapy water should do the trick.
Lower Your Stress Levels
When you’re stressed out and exhausted, your body just can’t respond to cold viruses the way it would when you’re calm and well-rested. A lack of sleep and high levels of stress have been linked to an increase in common colds among adults3.
Fortunately, there are many ways to manage stress. Find an activity that relaxes you, such as meditation, reading a favorite novel, or unwinding in front of an episode of your favorite TV show. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep each night, try setting a regular bed time and a regular waking time, giving yourself at least seven or eight hours of sleep every night.
Boost Your Immunity
Ever notice that some people never seem to get colds? They might have a stronger immune system compared to others. While there’s no surefire way to boost your immunity, there are things you can do to give your system a helping hand and allow it to function at its best4:
- Avoid smoking.
- Limit or avoid alcohol.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- Exercise often.
- Know when to take a break (or a nap).
Drink Lots of Liquids
Water, juice, and hot tea can all help you avoid getting sick. If you do feel under the weather, drinking plenty of liquids and keeping yourself hydrated can help you feel better faster. Sipping chicken broth or another clear broth can also help you get hydrated and can provide soothing relief when you feel ill.
Staying hydrated helps with a cold because it helps to break up and thin any mucous, so you can breathe more easily. It’s also easier for your body to drain thinner mucous, meaning it will flush out the germs more quickly.
While most liquids will help you feel better or can help to keep a cold at bay, not all of them are particularly helpful. Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and soda, can contribute to dehydration. When it comes to staying hydrated, water and green or herbal tea are your best bets.
At AHU Online, students can reach out to our Student Success team and professors for support and assistance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Working together, we can help you achieve your goals, even when illness strikes.
- “Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last reviewed February 12, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html.
- “Is Rinsing Your Sinuses With Neti Pots Safe?,” FDA, last updates November 6, 2017, https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm316375.htm.
- “Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence,” CMAJ, published February 18, 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3928210/.
- “How to Boost Your Immune System,” Harvard Health Publishing, last updated July 16, 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
- “Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt,” Mayo Clinic, Last updated March 14, 2018,https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403