It’s the most wonderful time of year! The snow has begun to fall and we are making travel plans to spend time with friends and family over the holidays. During this busy season, the last thing we want to interfere with our plans is a nasty cold. Luckily, there are several things that can be done to help prevent colds during this holiday season (and year-round).
- Wash your hands.
- Do this often, especially if you are around others who are ill with a cold.
- Using warm water, wet your hands, lather with soap, scrub for at least 20 seconds, rinse, and dry.
- The soap does not have to be antibacterial as the act of rubbing your hands together will eliminate germs.
- Be sure to scrub between your fingers and under your nails.
- If you are in public, be sure to use a paper towel to turn off the water faucet and open the bathroom door as you exit.
- If soap and water are not available, a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol will help to kill germs living on your hands.
- However, hand sanitizers do not kill all types of germs, so soap and water is the preferred method.
- Be mindful of your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands as viruses can easily enter your body through these areas.
- It is habit for humans to touch our faces, so this may take some time to sink in as you have to consciously think about not touching these areas.
- If you are sick with a cold, be mindful to not shake others’ hands as this is an easy way to spread germs.
- Cover your mouth.
- This is more for the benefit of others and to prevent the spread of germs, rather than to prevent you from getting a cold.
- However, it is polite and sanitary for others if you cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.
- The best technique is to cough/sneeze into a tissue that you can throw away.
- If that is not available, the next best option is to cough/sneeze into the crook of your arm; avoid using your hands to cover your mouth as your hands are highly effective germ-spreaders!
- Use disinfectants at home.
- Cleaning surfaces such as tables and countertops with disinfectants will help eliminate the spread of germs.
- It is best to avoid reusable sponges; rather, clean surfaces with disposable disinfectant wipes.
- Exercise, limit stress, and get enough sleep. These things may help to boost your immune system. (Speak to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.)
What about vitamin C?
- Research has failed to consistently prove that vitamin C supplementation has benefits in reducing incidence of colds.
- However, there is some evidence that vitamin C supplementation in persons who exercise rigorously for short periods of time may receive benefits from vitamin C such as a reduced duration of a cold.
- Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives. www.cdc.gov/handwashing/
- Get Set for a Healthy Winter Season. U.S. Food & Drug. www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm092805.htm
- Hemila H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jan 31;(1):CD000980