And just like that, December's here already, and naturally, everyone has exciting plans and tight schedules for the busiest month of the year. It could be a deadline for an extensive report at work, an end-of-year gathering for your friends and family, or a much-anticipated (and deserved) vacation for yourself, somewhere nice and quiet. Whatever that is, one thing is sure: you need to stay fit and healthy to carry out your plans.
Unfortunately, even with the advancements and innovations in medical science, doctors and scientists have yet to develop a cure for the most popular culprit that gets people sick during the holiday season - the common cold.
Cold viruses, if anything, have even become a more vital force to reckon with. Previous studies show about 100 different strains of rhinoviruses, which are known to be the most frequent cause of the common cold. Still, recently, a new group of rhinoviruses has been discovered. Cold expert J.Owen Hendley, M.D., from the University of Virginia, estimated there could be as many as 200 varieties of cold viruses in existence. This is the reason why we keep on getting infected with colds now and then, with each season that passes. The average American catches a cold three to four times a year, while children suffer a worse fate – they can get up to six rhinovirus infections annually.
Unsurprisingly, common colds are the primary reason adults and children take time off from work and school, respectively, according to an online article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
The numbers reveal a grim predicament, and with all the preparations for the holidays, we cannot afford to get sick. This begs the question: how do we protect ourselves from common colds?
Avoid Rubbing the Nose and Eyes, Please!
We all know that the most common way that colds spread is through air transmission. If someone has an infectious cold virus, they can pass it to you instantly when you breathe in the germs from their cough or sneeze (yikes!). The virus can also spread by getting in close contact with contaminated surfaces or body parts. So if you have had personal contact with a cold virus carrier and the viruses stick on your fingers, then you touch your nose and/or eyes with hands, you know what will happen next!
Clean Your Hands Frequently
I know it's challenging to avoid touching various surfaces and keeping our fingers away from the eyes and nose, but there is one thing that we can do to lessen the chance of getting infected with cold and flu viruses: frequent handwashing. Science proves it works, and that means we should practice it religiously. It is so easy: rub your hands together with some clean running water and soap (plus points if it's an anti-bacterial one) and scrub the fronts and backs and spaces between your fingers while singing the "Happy Birthday" song. Two rounds of singing the song while cleaning your hands will be enough to keep those pesky cold viruses away.
If you are outside and access to water and soap is out of the options, you can rely on a hand sanitiser with a content of at least 60% alcohol. Make sure to frequently re-apply hand sanitiser, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.
Stay Away from the Sick
It's the festive season, and most people will be inclined to hug and kiss and shake hands with each other all the time, but that is not a reason to let your guard down!
If you notice anyone with the tell-tale symptoms of common colds – sneezing, runny nose, sickly and tired look, scratchy voice (from a sore throat, perhaps?) – then you should steer away from at once. No hugging, kissing or touching to avoid catching or spreading the cold viruses to others.
If it is the other way around and you are the unfortunate victim of common colds, do the right thing, stay at home, and rest until you fully recover. Remember that by keeping some distance between yourself and others, you are not only protecting yourself from further harm, but more importantly, you are safeguarding the health of the people around you. And that is always the right thing to do.
Boost Your Immune System
Boosting your immune system is not limited to taking Vitamin C - an essential micronutrient that fights infections like common colds – in its various shapes and forms and then hoping that it will miraculously spare you from getting sick. I am sorry to disappoint you. It does not work like that!
Boosting your immune system requires adopting lifelong healthy habits to help your body combat viruses, illnesses, and infections effectively.
To ensure that you're equipping yourself with the immune system needed to work optimally, you should maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get plenty of water and sleep, and, as much as possible, minimize stress. Easy, right?
A balanced diet is crucial to a robust immune system. This means you should consume lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins. Instead of getting your daily vitamin dose from capsules or supplements, why not eat fresh produce like citrus fruits (for Vitamin C), nuts and green, leafy vegetables (for Vitamin E), and poultry and fish (for Vitamin B6)?
Engaging in physical activities is great for building a toned physique and, at the same time, a healthy immune system. If you do not have time to go to the gym, you can allot at least 30 minutes daily to simple activities like brisk walking or jogging. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, too. The infection-combating cells in our body rely on water to function efficiently, so drinking at least eight glasses of water every day is a must!
We also need to get enough sleep to keep the body's defence system in good condition. Cytokines, a protein that helps the immune system fight inflammation and infection, are produced during sleep, which means unhealthy sleeping habits may result in a deficiency of these essential proteins.
Lastly, living free from stress and anxiety will do wonders for the immune system. There is an article that cites the findings of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. The researchers have discovered that a happy, lively, calm, and positive outlook in life can ward off both cold and flu viruses more effectively than those suffering from depression and anxiety—being healthy means being happy, too!
A Final Reminder
The common cold is a formidable foe, but thanks to decades of research and studies, we have a clear idea of how cold viruses spread and what we can do to avoid getting sick. During the holidays, make sure that you read all the tips above to not miss out on the fun and festivities! Let's aim to make the last month of this year colds-free, shall we?