That said, there are a few things you can do to hedge your bets, boost your immunity and understand why humans tend to be so susceptible to colds. I’d like to address the two non-diet related steps that you can take first: hand-washing and sleep.
During cold and flu season you might continually hear “wash your hands!” and it happens to be the most important thing that you can do to rid yourself of germs which cause the common cold. Avoiding touching your face is another good habit to adopt, since orifices such as eyes, nose and mouth are receptors for these germs Since you can’t get away from germs or the people who carry them, it makes perfect sense to practice good hygiene and keep those germs from invading your body.
As a supplement to soap and water, they certainly have their place, but there are some guidelines you need to be aware of when choosing a sanitizer. First of all, sanitizers will not adequately clean off soil such as blood or dirt, so soap and water is still the top choice for hand cleansing. Second, only a sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol will actually kill germs — and there are lesser formulations on the market — so be sure to read the label.
Another interesting habit to consider adopting in the workplace is the longstanding Asian tradition of not shaking hands. Although I was unable to locate data indicating a link between this practice and a reduced occurrence of the common cold in cultures where people bow instead of shaking hands, since 80% of germs are transmitted via touch it stands to reason that this could only be a good idea during cold and flu season. (Let people think you’re worldly, you’ll know you’re just trying to stay healthy!)
Consider these statistics: your immune system functions at 20% capacity when you’re awake, but 80% when you’re asleep! That’s why getting an ample night’s rest is so essential to keeping your immune system functioning optimally. Once you punt on a good nights sleep, you cannot “make up for it” the following night. So it’s very important, especially if you’re feeling run down, to tuck in early. A very general rule of thumb is for adults to get 7-9 hours, school age kids 10-11 hours, and younger children 12-14 hours per night. However, pregnancy, aging and medical conditions can all influence these needs. Keeping your immune system operating at peak efficiency is key to fighting off illness.
Does your body sound like a finely tuned machine? It is! One of the best analogies I’ve heard is how careful people are to put the proper grade of gas into their cars, when they scarcely give a thought to what they put into their bodies! How can you expect your system — your body — to operate at maximum capacity if you give it the wrong type of nutrition?
A healthy diet is the most important thing to keep your body healthy. In nutrition we talk a lot about macro-nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates and fats; but when it comes to warding off the common cold it's the micro-nutrients, and vitamins in particular, that are most important. You can best find these in whole fruits and vegetables. Vitamins are powerhouses of antioxidants that can help your body fight off cold and flu. How and why? Here's where things get interesting.
We’ve heard about vitamin C being important for our immune systems since we were little kids being told to drink our orange juice, right? Ever wonder why, exactly, it’s so important?
If you are already feeling under the weather, loading up on vitamin C is a great idea. Other herbal remedies include echinacea, which many people swear by for its ability to lessen the severity of colds, however the scientific studies on this have been challenged; and zinc, which has been shown to lessen the severity of cold symptoms, although side affects can include nausea and/or a metallic taste from the lozenges.
Also recommended — and certainly not to be argued with! — is Jewish penicillin, a bowl of chicken soup!