5 tactics to make the common cold less common

October 9, 2015

The common cold doesn't have to be so familiar. With the right lifestyle changes, you could help your body fight of the cold and flu before they get you down. Here's how:

5 tactics to make the common cold less common

1. Get your flu shot

  • Colds and flu are highly contagious respiratory infections that are caused by viruses. More than 200 cold viruses have been identified.
  • Developing immunity to one does not protect you from the others.
  • There are fewer flu viruses, but they undergo frequent mutations. Each year, they change their protein structure slightly so bodies won't recognize them.
  • This is why new flu vaccines are produced yearly that protect against the prevailing strains of the virus.
  • Doctors recommend annual flu shots for everyone over the age of 65 and people of any age who have a circulatory, respiratory, kidney, metabolic or immune disorders.

2. Stay warm

  • Colds and flu are spread by coughing and sneezing, or transferred to surfaces by touch.
  • British researchers have shown that the cold virus is activated at temperatures slightly below 37°C, the normal temperature for humans.
  • It seems that the old wives' tales about catching cold have a grain of truth: if you sit in a draft, your temperature may drop just enough to activate cold viruses.

3. Avoid dry air

  • When you breathe overly dry air, your nasal passages may form tiny cracks that provide an entryway for viruses.
  • Planes and artificially ventilated office buildings are common culprits of dry air.
  • The best defense is plenty of fluids to rehydrate the tender membranes. Try using a humidifier or opening the window to improve air quality.

4. Keep your stress low and sleep time high

You're more vulnerable to colds and flu when your immune system is depressed. Preventive steps include avoiding alcohol, getting plenty of rest and reducing stress levels.

5. Know when to see a doctor

The complications of flu — especially pneumonia — can be serious. If you have a severe flu, you must seek medical attention, especially if these complications arise:

  • A cough that produces green, yellow or bloody phlegm.
  • A severe headache or pain in the face, jaw or ear.
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing.
  • A fever over 37.8°C that lasts more than 48 hours.

Most people suffer two or three bouts of muscle aches, runny noses and nagging coughs every year. That's why it's called "the common cold." But with the right changes to your lifestyle, you could make the common cold a little less familiar.

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