How to avoid catching a cold this winter


Dec 12, 2014 by James

Most adults get three or four colds each year, with children suffering around twice that number, making the cold perhaps the most common illness in the UK. Viruses cause most colds, which means that once you have one, taking antibiotics won't make any difference and all you can realistically do is manage the symptoms and wait it out.

Since having a cold can be a miserable experience, the best approach is probably to take all reasonable steps possible to avoid catching one. Here are a few ideas how to do that.


Boost your immunity

When attacked by cold viruses, your body's immune system responds to fight them off. The more efficient and effective your immune system, the better able your body will be to do this.

Many people believe that their Vitamin C intake is crucial to their immune system function, but in fact, there is very little evidence to suggest that it helps to prevent or fight off a cold. In any case, most people have adequate vitamin C in their diet. Vitamin D, on the other hand, which is also important for immunity, is often lacking in Brits, so consider getting as much sunshine as possible (sunshine causes the body to produce vitamin D) and take a supplement if necessary.

Wholegrains are a great source of nutrients such as iron, B vitamins and zinc, all of which will bolster the immune system. Protein also boosts immunity (you can find it in eggs and fish, among other foods), as do green leafy vegetables such as pak choi and broccoli. Garlic can kill cold viruses, so add it where you can.

Alcohol is an immune depressant, so is best avoided in the cold season. Smoking makes you much more susceptible to infections, so stub it out!


Sleep well

Good quality sleep will help your body to fight respiratory viruses and keep colds at bay. In one study, people who slept for fewer than seven hours a night trebled their chances of catching a cold.


Keep it clean

Cold viruses live on surfaces for around 48-hours and the transfer of viruses through touch is one of the most common ways to catch a cold. To prevent it, keep your hands clean and consider using a hand sanitiser in gel or liquid form: in an emergency you can use neat vodka (yes, really!) because its high alcohol content makes it a good disinfectant. Avoid touching your face as much as possible, to avoid spreading germs into the body through the nose or mouth.

If somebody in your household or immediate environment has a cold, you can limit its spread by using disposable cups, plates and cutlery, and by keeping household surfaces scrupulously clean. Wash bedding and towels, etc. frequently and make sure all tissues are binned as soon as they are used.

Finally, although long and decorated nails are very fashionable they can also harbour germs. If you have long nails, either be sure to scrub underneath them regularly or change to the short-nailed look until the cold season is over.