A common cold is a group of symptoms caused by about 200 various viruses. The most common one is the rhinovirus. This virus is inactive until we breathe it into the mouth or nose. It can also be transmitted through the hands to our mucous membranes. Our immune system fights the virus by sending out histamine, prostaglandins, and other inflammatory cells. This often results in clogged ears, sore throat, and swollen nasal membranes. The incubation period lasts for 8 to 12 hours. Most symptoms peak in 72 hours and are gone, on average, within a week. However, some people may suffer longer.
Winter is a favorable time for spreading cold. Viruses survive for longer in cold dry air and are more likely to attack our cells. Our mucous membranes become dry from indoor heating systems which makes it easier to get infected. Smoking and underlying allergies increase the risk of getting cold. Moreover, most of the time in winter we are indoors and have closer contact with one another. Around the holidays, we may be traveling on buses or planes which exposes us to sneezing, coughing, and different germs.
In addition to cold, we are more likely to get the flu during winter. This virus is transmitted the same way as the cold virus and can cause more severe symptoms and even complications. Among them are muscle pain, chills, fever, and even pneumonia. Influenza virus increases the risk of hospitalization and even death in the young, elderly and people with serious health issues and immune system disorders. The bad news is that every year viruses mutate which puts us at high risk of serious complications. Let’s look at six tips that will help you prevent the flu and cold.
1. Avoid public places
It’s important to be in public places as little time as possible. We’re talking not only about schools and offices but also about public transportation, crowded parties, and bars. Since this might make you a little antisocial, try to limit the extra kissing, sharing of beverages, and handshaking if possible.
2. Make your body less prone to viruses
Using throat spray and nasal rinse is one of the best ways to protect your body from catching a cold and flu. Keep in mind that viruses attach in the back of the nose and throat, therefore, keeping mucous membranes well hydrated helps rinse away viruses and allergens. You can use some natural substances and antivirals to rinse your nose and throat, for example, propolis, xylitol, Manuka honey or Ponaris.
3. Clean your things
Viruses can also survive on any surface including money, phones, pens, and tables. First, wipe your things down. You can put some white vinegar in a spray bottle and some hydrogen peroxide 3% in another. Spray down your things for a few minutes. Do the same with the hydrogen peroxide. But keep in mind that this can discolor fabric. Use alcohol-based wipes or gel to wipe down your hands. Don’t forget to wash your hands before and after meals and try not to touch your face.
4. Boost your immunity
There are many nutrients that keep a healthy immune system, and the most powerful of them are vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc. Your body can’t produce vitamin C, therefore it’s important to get it from foods or supplements. Zinc deficiency is common and it plays a key role in providing healthy immunity. You need to get 15 mg of zinc daily and also consume zinc-rich foods like oysters, crab, pumpkin seeds, and dark chicken meat. Your body also can’t produce vitamin D on its own. Since the best source of this vitamin is the sun, we’re often deficient in winter.
Some herbs are also known to be powerful immune boosters. Using echinacea, elderberry, Andrographis, and Astragalus can be really helpful. You can also eat more garlic, it has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties, and can help you if your gums or teeth hurt.
5. Try sauna
You can try an infrared sauna. According to several studies, getting in a sauna once a week is able to reduce the chances of getting sick. This is probably due to the elevations in body temperature. It’s also beneficial for improving detoxification pathways.
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6. Avoid things that can lower your immune system
Many of us rarely catch colds and if we do, we get over it quickly. This time of the year, you want to give your immune system all the help you can.
First of all, control your stress levels and get high-quality sleep. Did you know that this is the most common reason why people get sick? When we are under stress our cortisol levels increase which makes us more prone to get infected. Drinking excess alcohol and being at public places too often also puts us at high risk for any respiratory infection. If you are feeling a bit sickly, the best thing is to give in and rest up.