Easy tips to prevent the common cold – and what to do when you’ve already caught it
‘Tis the season – for subways, offices, homes, restaurants and classrooms to be filled with the sounds of sniffles and coughs.
As the thermometer drops, the number of people suffering with the common cold often goes up.
Dr. Rahul Modi, a family medicine physician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., says winter is truly a time for giving – and receiving – when it comes to the illness, and offers some tips to stay healthy or recover once you are under the weather.
- Eat healthy and hydrate. Many of the miracle cures for the cold and flu revolve around supplementing your diet with additional vitamins and minerals. While some research has shown mixed results on the effectiveness of many of these cures, making sure your body has what it needs to be healthy every day can go a long way toward staying healthy this season, says Dr. Modi.
“Not eating well can bring your immune system down and make you more prone to infection,” he says. “There are also many chronic problems, like hypertension and diabetes, that leave you immunocompromised and more vulnerable to disease, which proper nutrition can help alleviate.”
Drinking lots of water, tea and other low-sugar hydrating drinks can also make a huge difference in getting and remaining healthy.
- Get plenty of sleep. Similarly, your body works best when it has plenty of sleep – usually between seven and nine hours for adults – and that includes the work of fighting off bacteria. When you get sick, many people’s energy levels drop as their body works to fight off whatever bug is causing problems.
“Think of it as your system shutting down, telling you to rest and recover,” says Dr. Modi. “Rest is crucial when you’re not feeling well.”
- Wash your hands and cover your mouth. Many people learned this lesson in kindergarten for a reason – it’s effective. Washing your hands can greatly cut down on the likelihood of transmission both to you and from you, so be sure to scrub down with hot water and soap or hand sanitizer several times a day. Another great way to stop the spread of the cold and flu is to be sure to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Dr. Modi advises against coughing into a shoulder or elbow, as both spots can be hard to disinfect afterward. Grab a Kleenex and/or some antibacterial gel next time.
- Get a flu shot. Getting your annual flu shot can actually help stave off the cold. Getting one illness often opens your immune system up to attacks from others, so doing your best to proactively prevent the flu can help ensure you aren’t immunocompromised when you get sneezed on by that coworker.
- See a doctor – eventually. While Dr. Modi cautions against reactionary doctor visits or requests for antibiotics, there is a point where you should see a professional.
“The best time to go to the doctor is when your body tells you to go,” he says. “Generally, if you’ve had the cold for more than two to three weeks, you should set up an appointment.”
About the Author
Nathan Lurz, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. He has nearly a decade of professional news experience as a reporter and editor, and a lifetime of experience as an enthusiastic learner. On the side, he enjoys writing even more, tabletop games, reading, running and explaining that his dog is actually the cutest dog, not yours, sorry.