Each year, millions of people suffer from the common cold. Coughing, sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and headaches can cause people to miss work or school and can sometimes progress into more severe illnesses. The viruses that cause the common cold are more likely to spread in cold, dry air, making the common cold more prevalent leading into and throughout the winter months. However, people can take some key preventive measures to reduce their risk of catching a cold.
Tip #1: Wash up
Children might get annoyed at parents making them wash up before mealtime, but this small habit can lead to greatly improved health. Washing hands regularly is one of the most effective ways to prevent spreading the common cold. The CDC instructs to wash hands before preparing or eating food, after using the restroom or changing a diaper, before and after interacting with wounds or someone who is sick, after handling garbage, and after coughing, sneezing, or nose-blowing. Keeping hands clean prevents the spread of bacteria and cold-causing germs.
Handwashing guidelines recommend washing hands for at least 20 seconds. Scrub the backs of hands, between fingers, and underneath fingernails. If soap and water aren’t readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead. Take note, however, that hand sanitizer will not be as effective at preventing the spread of germs when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
Tip #2: Know how germs enter the body
Bacteria easily enters the body through the nose, eyes, or mouth. Avoiding touching the face can greatly reduce the risk of catching the common cold. Cold prevention recommendations state that if touching the face can’t be avoided, people should make sure their hands are washed first. People should also avoid sneezing or coughing into their hands. Instead they should sneeze into a tissue or the inside of their elbow, where germs are less likely to cling.
Tip #3: Catch enough Zs
Regular healthy habits can lower chances of catching the common cold. Studies show that people who slept less than five hours per night were almost three times more likely to catch the virus than those who got more sleep. People who have weaker immune systems are also more likely to catch colds. Eating a nutrient-rich, balanced diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress are all lifestyle factors that can boost and maintain strength of the immune system.