*This article has been updated in March 2020.
Getting sick is a drag, and in the winter when we’re confined inside, our chances of getting sick rise dramatically. Here are some strategies that research has shown may reduce your chances of catching a bad germ.
Keep your Vitamin D levels up. Vitamin D helps the immune system fight off viruses. A Yale Medical School study showed that adults with normal Vitamin D levels were 49% less likely to get a cold or other upper respiratory infection.
Get a good night’s sleep. A study done by Carnegie Mellon University found that participants who slept fewer than seven hours a night were almost three times more likely to catch a cold.
Use chlorine bleach to clean. Only bleach can kill noroviruses, the germs that cause stomach flu. They live on hard surfaces and most household cleaners don’t get them.
Get a flu shot. It doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu, but it will reduce the chances significantly.
Keep Zinc handy. A study in Finland showed that 75 mg of zinc a day could reduce the length of a cold by 42%. Other studies show that taking one zinc lozenge a day may prevent colds from even starting.
Exercise often. Like sleep, exercise helps your immune system stay strong. Studies show that you could get 50% fewer colds if you engage in moderate to intense exercise for 30 minutes a day.
Steer clear of people with visible symptoms. At all the holiday parties you’re going to, try not to linger around anyone wheezing, coughing or sneezing as germs are airborne and easy to catch.
Take hand washing seriously. Soap up and under running water wash your hands whenever you’ve been around people or in public places. If you wash your hands for 20 seconds you will have forced even the most stubborn germs off your hands. Dry your hands with a paper towel when possible. It removes more germs than a hand dryer according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.
Keep nasal passages moist when flying. Airplanes are a great place to catch a cold and not because of recycled air. Airplanes have very low humidity which dries out the moisture in our nasal passages that usually catches viruses. Use saline sprays or gels or a neti pot.
Try to break the habit of touching your eyes. If we have germs on our hands, we introduce them into our bodies by putting our hands in our mouths or eyes. Try to be aware of where your hands are and don’t rub your eyes until you’ve washed your hands.
I, for one, can’t wait until the spring!