As winter approaches, people gather in close proximity in colleges, schools, daycares, clinics and workplaces. Humidity drops and indoor heating leads to dry air. Many experts believe that these and other factors can contribute to a rise in the common cold.
On average, adults experience 2.5 colds per year while children experience five colds per year. Even though the common cold is considered a nuisance illness, it has a significant decrease on quality of life in terms of physical, social and emotional functioning. Follow these tips to beat your cold this winter.
1. Frequent hand washing. Although hand sanitizer is helpful, it is not as effective as hand washing. It is important to note that hand washing is most effective if it lasts at least 20 seconds or as long as humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end.
2. Reducing stress. Research has shown that immune function and mood are correlated, with positive affective states resulting in stronger immune function and decreased illness. If you find yourself feeling stressed this winter, try deep breathing exercises, simple mindfulness practices, and a quiet day of rest. These practices can be helpful in treating and preventing a cold.
3. Avoid vigorous exercise while sick. Although regular exercise is encouraged, intense exercise should be temporarily halted while you have symptoms of a cold. Research has shown that cold symptoms worsen with excessive exercise. Alternative activities include short walks or light home yoga.
4. Smoking Cessation. Tobacco use significantly prolongs symptoms and increases the chance of getting a cold. Smokers who present with cold symptoms present an ideal opportunity for cessation counseling. Learn more about Meriter’s smoking cessation programs.
5. Limiting alcohol to low-to-moderate use. Excessive alcohol use and abuse should be avoided. However, low-moderate consumption has some health benefits. One study found that 1-2 drinks a day, especially red wine, predicted fewer to less severe colds compared to heavy drinkers.
6. Nutritional recommendations. It is recommended to consume low amounts of sugar during your cold. This includes avoiding soda, candy, sweets and desserts. However, not all sweeteners are created equal. Honey has antioxidant properties, and research shows that 1-2 teaspoons of honey 3 times a day can significantly reduce cough frequency and severity.