By Johnelle Whipple
With disrupted sleep, throat irritation, body aches, a runny, stuffy nose and more, it’s easy to see why cough and cold season is no fun. While there’s a lot you can do to help manage symptoms, staving them off in the first place is even better. There’s no surefire way to completely prevent a cough or cold, but strengthening your immune system can be a powerful step in the right direction.
Get Vaccinated Against the Flu
Although there are no vaccines for the common cold, since 2010, the CDC and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) have been recommending routine annual influenza vaccinations for all persons aged ≥6 months who do not have contraindications.
Eat a Healthy Diet
To help protect yourself and quench your appetite at the same time, look into healthier food choices. Try replacing heavily processed, fatty and sugary items such as fast food and sodas, with whole foods. Foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes/beans and whole grains contain phytochemicals and antioxidants, which are associated with a lower risk for disease. Yogurt containing “live and active cultures” may help, too. In fact, studies have shown that eating a daily serving of common yogurt containing probiotics for eight or 12 weeks lowered the risk of the common cold in elderly people by two to six percent by stimulating the immune system.
Prioritize Sleep and Rest
You already know the drill: as your immune system works hard, you’ve got to support it by getting enough rest and sleep. That can be challenging when there’s always another errand to run, meeting to attend or social gathering. Defend your need for rest by committing to only what you can manage without increasing your stress levels or sacrificing sleep. While people’s needs vary, the National Sleep Foundation has found that adults typically need 7 to 9 hours of snoozing per night. Depending on their age, kids usually need 8 to 11 sleep hours.
Move More, but Not Too Much
If you want to help prevent getting a cold and cough, consider getting some exercise. Routine moderate exercise like walking, biking or swimming, may help reduce the risk of infections. However, you shouldn’t go overboard because intense physical training can have the opposite effect, making colds and other infections more likely. For overall health and to help boost your immune system, you should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise five days per week, or 25 minutes of intense exercise at least three days per week. Getting more than 300 minutes of moderately-intense cardio per week (without overdoing it) can invite even greater health benefits.
Once You Have a Cough or Cold
Always, try to keep from spreading a cough and cold to others by practicing good hygiene and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Read on to learn more about what to do once you have a cough or cold.
When Symptoms Arise
Most everyone deals with a seasonal bug on occasion. When symptoms arise, take steps to ease them. Start by taking an over-the-counter medication to alleviate your symptoms, using the product as directed and if symptoms persist, stop use and ask a doctor. Remember to stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water, broth or by eating foods with high water content like oranges (another plus: oranges are high in vitamin C content). To help relieve a nagging cough or dry throat, invest in a humidifier to moisten the air you breathe in.
Cover That Cough!
Covering a cough or sneeze is one of the best ways to prevent the millions of germs that come sailing out, from coming in contact with someone else. There are two good methods: Cough into a tissue placed over your mouth and nose, or turn your head and cough into an elbow. And turn away from others whenever possible.
Avoid Germ Hot Spots
Use disinfectant wipes as directed to go over commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, counters, tabletops and favorite toys at home. Don’t allow your kids to share cups or utensils when one of them is sick, and consider washing communal hand towels more often or using disposable paper towels.
Work on Hand Hygiene
Another way to minimize the spread of cough-related germs is through frequent hand-washing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention likens hand-washing to a sort of “do-it-yourself” vaccine, saying it as one of the best ways to remove germs, prevent their spread and avoid getting sick. When your family is in the midst of the cold or flu, consider switching to paper towels rather than sharing a cloth towel to prevent the spread of germs.
Johnelle Whipple is a Healthcare Professional (HCP) Marketing Director, Health, with Mucinex and Reckitt Benckiser.