Here comes fall — and in Indianapolis, that means most adults can expect to get a cold or two between September and March. Experts aren’t certain why, but they believe it’s because cold viruses survive best in cold, dry weather.
You can’t keep the cold viruses from being all around you. But you can mount a series of defenses strong enough that they can’t get to you. Here are the five top doctor-tested ways to keep colds away.
1. Embrace your inner germophobe.
Train yourself to think in terms of public surfaces, which means anything other people touch. Yes, the handles of shopping carts are germ breeding grounds but watch out for your own steering wheel, as well, if there are several drivers in your family. Doorknobs and toilet seat lids are obvious concerns. Here at Meridian Chiropractic we use germicidal disposable towels on our doornobs and chiropractic tables to kill unwanted germs. Be alert for anything you touch or pick up, including the backs of chairs, the handles of suitcases, the books you share with friends. Can’t remember where your hands have been in the last hour? Solve the problem by washing them frequently, especially after you’ve been in public locations. Carry disinfectant wipes to wipe down surfaces you have to touch and hand sanitizer for when you can’t get to a sink.
2. Make your face off-limits to your hands
Of the more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold, the majority are a type called rhinoviruses, the root of which is rhino, which means nose. Virus particles must make it into the mucous membranes lining the nose in order to cause infection; the nasopharynx — where the nose meets the mouth — is the “sweet spot” for these viruses. If they can reach this spot, it’s very likely you’ll get sick; if you prevent them from getting there, you won’t. And a virus deposited at the base of the nose can easily be inhaled higher up into the nose. Virus particles can’t easily reach the nose on their own, since they aren’t airborne; they need your hands to transport them there. Therefore, if your hands don’t touch your mouth or nose, the virus has no way to hitchhike a ride.
One more thing most people don’t realize: The eyes are connected directly to the nasal passages via the tear ducts. Keep your hands away from your nose and eyes, and you’ll greatly reduce your chances of catching a cold.
3. Beware the sneeze.
It may look funny — even a tad uncouth — when you see someone sneeze into the crook of their elbow, but they’re doing you an enormous favor. Colds are spread by physical contact with tiny particles of virus, and when you sneeze, you send droplets of virus-filled mucous raining down onto any handy surface, including your hand if you’ve used it to cover your mouth. Both the Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control have introduced campaigns to teach people to sneeze into their elbows to reduce the transmission of both colds and flu. If your back pain doesn’t allow you to reach your elbow to your mouth, well then we’ve got other issues to discuss.
4. Get your immune-boosting sleep.
Those who skimp on sleep are more likely to get sick. The reason? While you sleep, your body recharges your immune system, so it’s better equipped to fight off a cold. Experts don’t know exactly how sleep protects you from getting a cold, but there’s evidence that sleep boosts immune function by increasing the number of “killer cells,” which attack viruses.
5. Hydrate to stay healthy.
When the mucous membranes in the nose and throat are moist, they’re better equipped to fight germs. The best way to ensure moist nasal tissues? Be vigilant about staying well hydrated by drinking four to eight glasses of water throughout the day.
Nasal membranes dry out even more easily in dry winter air, making them more susceptible to germs, which is one reason experts say we get most colds and flu during the winter. Try a sinus irrigation. You can purchase a ready to use at home sinus irrigation system at your drug store. Or get yourself a Neti-pot , mix some weak salt solution and you’re in business too. Nasal irrigation makes your whole face feel refreshed. You can rinse those bad bugs down the drain.
So, there you have it. Follow these 5 simple steps to decreasing your chances of getting a cold and you just might make it to March without one!