22 Ways to Survive Cold and Flu Season

Each year, the typical adult can expect to contract two or three colds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Skip the annual flu vaccine and you set yourself up for a bout of that as well. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Aside from good hand washing (with soap, for at least 20 seconds), “there’s a lot you can do to drastically cut your risk of getting sick,” says Holly Phillips, M.D., a general internist in New York City. “And even if you do catch a bug, you may be able to cut short the duration of your illness.” Arm yourself with these tips from the experts, and make this cold and flu season your healthiest yet.

Eat yogurt for breakfast

The same live cultures that help ease digestive distress can help stave off a cold, says Dr. Phillips, who wrote The Exhaustion Breakthrough A 2011 study backs this up: Scientists found that people who consumed probiotics via supplements or fermented foods (think yogurt, kefir and kimchi) had 12 percent fewer upper respiratory infections.

Crack open a window

Spending the day in a stuffy room with anyone who’s under the weather raises your risk of catching a bug. Letting a little fresh air circulate keeps airborne viral particles on the move, making them harder to pick up, says Dr. Phillips.

Have some mushrooms

New research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition offered evidence of their immune-boosting powers. People who ate a cooked shiitake mushroom daily for a month showed higher numbers of T cells and less inflammation.

Turn away from sneezers

Sure, you hate to be rude, but moving out of firing range is crucial, says Dr. Phillips: “Germs carried in sneeze particles can travel 20 feet!” If a stranger next to you begins achooing or coughing, excuse yourself and scoot to another seat. All you need to say: “I’m sorry—I always catch colds really easily.”

Quit touching your lips

You might as well lick a restroom door (ick). “Not touching your face greatly cuts your odds of getting sick,” says Margarita Rohr, M.D., an internist at NYU Langone Medical Center. But that’s easier said than done: The average person puts a hand on her mouth or nose more than three times an hour. To break the habit, try sitting on your hands when they’re idle.

Score regular sleep

Take advantage of longer nights and log enough shut-eye. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that subjects who slept for fewer than seven hours were nearly three times as susceptible to colds as people who slept for at least eight hours.

Flush out your nose

Throughout cold season, add this to your nighttime routine: Rinse your nose using a neti pot with boiled (and cooled) salted water, or an over-the-counter nasal irrigator or saline solution. “It will help clear out viral particles you’ve breathed in during the day before they take root in your system,” says Richard Lebowitz, M.D., an otolaryngologist at NYU Langone Medical Center.

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