Stop Germs in Their Tracks
Handle right: Be cautious when in public places and with commonly touched surfaces. You should use your knuckle instead of your index finger to push elevator buttons, for instance. Carry a pen so you can use your own—especially in high-traffic spots such as pharmacies and banks—rather than shared writing implements, which can be disease magnets. At home, wipe down your TV remote and family computer keyboard with a disinfectant weekly—more often if someone in your household is sick.
Wash right: Scrub hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds (the time it takes to hum “Happy Birthday”). In a study from the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, recruits who washed their hands at least five times a day saw a 45 percent drop in respiratory illness compared with the previous year.
Breathe right: If the person next to you sneezes, you would be better off inhaling through your nose for the next few seconds, rather than breathing through your mouth. Your nose is the first line of defense against germs trying to enter your respiratory system. Your nasal passages are lined with cilia, little hairs that work t trap germs and other harmful particles in mucus before they can travel any farther. So the next time your co-worker sneezes, say “Bless you” quickly, then zip your lips and breathe through your nose.
Keep Your Defense Up
Sip soup: feeling lousy? Reach for some chicken noodle soup. The classic cold remedy has anti-inflammatory properties that can minimize upper-respiratory symptoms, according to University of Nebraska research.
Limit sweets: Consuming sugar-laden foods can decrease your immunity. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that ingesting 100 grams of sugar (think 2½ cans of cola) significantly hampered infection-fighting while blood cells for up to five hours.
Break a sweat: Help ramp up your resistance with a small but consistent amount of exercise (30 minutes daily). Experts suspect that during a moderate workout immune cells circulate through the body faster.
Calm yourself: Chronic tension can cause your body to pump out the stress hormone cortisol, weakening your natural defenses. To unwind, try doing 10 minutes of gentle yoga or deep breathing exercises each day.
Rest up: Women who get less than eight hours of nightly shut-eye are at higher risk of contracting colds and the flu tan women who get more sleep, experts say. While you snooze, your immune system works to produce cytokines, potent infection-fighting proteins.
Be kneaded: Loosening tense muscles with a back run helps your body produce more white blood cells, which can help you fight off viruses and other pathogens, according to researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Relaxing massages also can lower your cortisol level, decreasing your stress—which boosts your immune cells. Try pressing and manipulating the back of your shoulder and neck with one hand. Repeat on the other side.
Ease Your Symptoms
Fight a fever: Do drink plenty of liquids. A fever can cause perspiration, and if you don’t replenish those fluids you run the risk of dehydration. Don’t try to power through it. Going to the gym or socializing with friends can stress your body and slow recovery. Also avoid cooling off with ice packs, which can burn your skin. Opt for a cold washcloth instead. Call your doctor if you have a temperature that’s higher than 103 degrees, you have a headache and neck pain, or you fever doesn’t break after two days. Fevers caused by viruses go away in a day or two. Lingering ones could signal something more serious, such as kidney infection or pneumonia.
Lessen sinus pain: Do use a saline spray or rinse to help clear out mucus buildup and reduce the pressure on your sinuses. Take a decongestant that contains pseudoephedrine, which can quickly shrink up your inflamed sinus blood vessels that are the source of the pain. Don’t rely on steroid nasal sprays to fix the problem. A recent study revealed that people who took a placebo recovered just as quickly as those who used a steroid spray. Call your doctor if you symptoms don’t subside in a week, the pain you’re experiencing is severe or you have a fever that’s higher than 100 degrees. In those cases, it’s possible you have a bacterial sinus infection that requires treatment with antibiotics.
Soothe sore throats: Do stir a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water, then gargle with the solution to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Repeat every two to three hours. Don’t ask for antibiotics. Most sore throats are caused by viruses; antibiotics won’t work because they’re effective only against bacterial infections such as strep throat. Call your doctor if you don’t feel better (or you feel even worse) after a day or two or you see white spots on the back of your throat. —which cold indicate a strep infection. If your sore throat recurs frequently, it’s possible you have chronic postnasal drip or acid reflux, a condition in which acid travels up the esophagus and causes a burning sensation.
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