CYBERSPACE, NOVEMBER 3, 2011 (MSN HEALTH) By Heather Hudson - Batten down your body’s hatches to prevent sickness!

In the absence of a magic pill that prevents all strains of colds and flus, we've got a four-word strategy that'll at least keep illness to the bare minimum. Check out our common sense ways to stay healthy.


One of the effective ways you can both prevent illness and recover rapidly is to get enough rest. When we're underslept our immune system is compromised, effectively opening us up for illness.

When we try to power through when we should be down for the count, we're keeping our inner infection fighters from putting all their attention on the job at hand, prolonging our misery and remaining susceptible for the next bug passing through.

The best advice? Aim for eight hours of sleep every night. If you get derailed for any reason, there's always tomorrow night.


If you only do one thing this season to prevent colds and flu, washing your hands regularly should be it. Before you eat, after you eat, upon returning home from being in any public place and lots of times in between.

Colds and flu are usually airborne animals and it's in your hands to prevent them from taking up residence in your body. Carry hand sanitizer in the fall and winter and keep your soap dispensers full and plentiful around the house.

And when you start to suds up, make sure you do a thorough job of it; sing the chorus of your favourite song two or three times while you scrub!


There's nothing like stress to wind us up and weaken our immune system at the same time. If your life is a constant go-go-go and you find yourself struggling to keep up to a hectic pace, it's important to re-examine your priorities before a cold or flu knocks you out flat.

Taking just five minutes every day to meditate or do deep breathing can lower your heart rate and centre your efforts, as can making time for yoga, stretching or simply relaxing on the couch at the end of a long day.

If you don't create space for relaxation, you'll be calling in all your sick days this season.


Did you know that the most important meal of the day is also the one that can most prevent colds and flu?

Not only are you be bolstering your body with energy, vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients, you're activating all your bodily functions, including your immune system.

Keep up good habits by avoiding sugar when you start to feel run down (it also weakens your immune system) and making sure to take in lots of fruits and vegetables, especially those packed with Vitamin C (broccoli, peppers, dark, leafy greens, kiwi, oranges).

10 ways to avoid catching a cold by Caroline Jones, Daily Mirror

We all feel that first sneeze or tickle at the back of the throat that signals the beginning of the cold season. But is there actually anything we can do to prevent ourselves from getting one?

Adults average three to four sniffle bouts a year, with children picking up double this number. Yet scientists are no closer to that elusive goal: a cure for the common cold.

According to Professor Ron Eccles of Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre, the sheer number of different viruses is the main reason why we keep catching them year after year. But there is a glimmer of hope.

“We’re at a stage now where there’s a huge amount known about these ­viruses and how they work. We hope that by continuing to ­increase this knowledge we’ll have a breakthrough,” says Prof Eccles.

The good news is that all this research has taught us how colds spread.

Here are 10 simple ways to ­significantly improve your odds of avoiding the scourge of winter...

1 Go green

The Babraham Institute in ­Cambridge found that eating plenty of leafy green vegies can boost your immune system.

It turns out that cruciferous vegetables – from bak choi to broccoli – contain food chemicals that help ensure white blood cells function at peak performance to fight off infections.

Try: Stir-frying broccoli with a little soy sauce and ginger for a fabulous flu-fighting side dish.

2 Switch C for D

Vitamin C pills used to be the ­all-important nutrient when it came to busting colds – but not any more.

Australian scientists found that ­taking the vitamin neither reduced the risk of developing a cold, nor significantly helped relieve symptoms.

“The latest evidence indicates that most of us get enough vitamin C in our diet,” says Prof Eccles.

“So unless your diet is very poor – and I mean on the verge of malnutrition – it’s not worth supplementing it.

“If you’re going to take anything extra this winter, make it vitamin D. We need vitamin D to support our ­immune ­system, but levels are much lower in winter as there’s less sun.”

Try: Vitabiotics Ultra-D3 (£4.95 for 96, Waitrose).

3 Sleep more

Getting a decent night’s kip can bolster your defences against colds. An experiment by researchers at Carnegie Mellon ­University in the US found that the more sleep you get, the better your chances of fighting off respiratory bugs.

People who slept fewer than seven hours a night were nearly three times more likely to come down with colds compared with those who enjoyed eight or more hours of quality shut-eye.

Try: Having an hour without the TV before bed – research shows it can help you drop off more easily.

4 Take a probiotic

Taking a daily dose of friendly bacteria has been found to reduce the duration of a cold by two days.

“Probiotics can also reduce the chance of getting a respiratory infection by nearly 20% in ­children and the elderly,” says GP Dr Sarah Brewer. “I give my kids Actimel every day in their lunchbox and they’re rarely ill!”

Try: Actimel, any flavour, (£2.58 for eight, Tesco).

5 Eat breakfast

Cereal eaters are less likely to catch colds than those who skip breakfast, according to studies carried out at Cardiff University.

Researchers think this is because wholegrain cereals are loaded with nutrients we know are important for a healthy immune system, like B vitamins, iron and zinc.

Try: Starting the day with a bowl of porridge topped with berries.

6 Wash your hands

Scientists used to think colds were transmitted when infected people sneezed or coughed.

But we are far more likely to pick up a cold by touching contaminated ­surfaces such as doorknobs – where bugs can last for 24 hours or more – and then touching our eyes ­or nose.

“Your single best defence is to wash your hands with soap and water regularly throughout the day,” says Prof Eccles.

“But if you’re out on public transport and can’t do that then medicated hand sanitiser gels are a good idea.”

Try: Handbag-sized Mentholatum Anti-Viral Hand Sanitiser (£3.19 from Boots).

7 Keep your distance!

Because viruses cling to bare fingers, shaking hands is an easy way of catching colds.

Try to wash your hands as soon as is polite or opt for a pat on the back instead.

Kissing, on the other hand, isn’t as bad as you might think. There’s only a small number of harmful bugs on the lips and mouth, so you’re ­actually not that likely to catch a cold. It’s nasal mucus you have to avoid.

Try: “Sneezing or coughing into the crook of your arm to avoid spreading the virus,” says Dr Sarah Brewer.

8 Get gargling

A Japanese study found that people who gargled with water three times a day – a common practice in the East – had 36% fewer colds than those who didn’t. Although the researchers ­admitted they weren’t sure exactly why it worked, they speculated that it could help clear mucus and viruses from the back of the throat.

Try: Gargling with water before ­brushing your teeth in the morning, after lunch and at night.

9 Spice things up

Certain spices have been found to be beneficial bug fighters, including cayenne pepper, which contains an active ingredient called capsaicin that beats congestion by thinning the mucus in your nasal passages so you can breathe more easily.

Garlic, which contains a ­chemical called allicin, can zap the cold viruses that lead to infection.

Try: Adding spices to soups and stews for a healthier winter warmer.

10 Give excess booze the boot for good

Before you reach for that “medicinal” whisky, there’s some bad news.

Unfortunately for those keen on the odd night cap, it’s a complete myth that alcohol kills off cold germs.

In reality, it actually suppresses your immune system, leaving you ­potentially more exposed.

That’s why heavy drinkers are more prone to infections, although the ­occasional tipple is still fine.

Try: Limiting yourself to one or two drinks a day and have at least two booze-free days per week to give your liver a break.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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