UAB Nutritionist Dr. Beth Kitchin explains how nothing ruins your holiday spirit like a cold and offers some tips to keep healthy through the fall and winter months.
- Wash Your Hands & Use Hand Sanitizer: We all know this one but may not follow through as much as we should. Don't Touch Your Face - Viruses spread easiest through eye, nose, and mouth tissues
- Fluids and Humidity Help: Keeping the air moist keeps your nasal passages from drying out which makes them more susceptible to germs
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is crucial for keeping your immune system healthy. The old standard holds true here: 8 hours a night!
- Socialize! You'd think that being more social would increase your risk of catching a cold because of greater exposure to the virus, but studies show otherwise. There is some evidence that people who have a larger number of social contacts are less likely to get a cold when exposed the virus than those who report fewer social contacts.This does not necessarily mean that becoming more social will actually lower your risk. Maybe those extroverts have some sort of built-in resistance. But it's worth a try!
- Zinc Sulfate: Taking 15 mg of zinc sulfate at the onset of a cold may shorten the length and severity of your cold. Taking 15 mg throughout the winter may lower your chances of a getting a cold. Check with your doctor first before taking zinc and avoid nasal zinc – it can cause an irreversible loss of your sense of smell! Don't go over the 15 mg oral dose.
- Probiotics: The probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei or Lactobacillus rhamnosus might be helpful in lowering the chances of getting a cold. Two well-done studies in children showed benefits. Fermented milk foods like yogurt and kefir often contain these strains – but you have to read the label. You can also buy probiotic supplements – but read the label carefully. I'll blog more on how you can make sure you're getting the right kind and what to look for!
Notice that adding in extra vitamin C and Echinacea are not on this list – that's because the evidence doesn't really hold up with these two even though they have reputations for cold fighting! Also, none of these strategies guarantees that you won't get a cold! But they might lower your chances!
(Citation: Allan GM & Arroll B. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ 2014 Feb 18; 186(3): 190-199.)
For more great advice, follow Beth on Twitter: @DrBethK.