The common cold is one of the most prevalent illnesses in humans. It’s also one of the most frequent causes for missing work or school. In fact, adults suffer from an average of two to three colds per year and kids can catch as many as eight annually.
The viruses that cause colds are spread from person to person through tiny droplets of mucus that enter the air from the nasal passages of infected people and are then inhaled by others. Colds can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
The symptoms you experience—stuffiness, runny nose, congestion, and fever—are your body’s way of fighting the virus. The respiratory tract produces mucus in an effort to flush the virus out of the body. The same goes for coughing, which can also result from congestion or irritation in your airways. But, while you likely feel miserable, your body is mounting an immune response, mobilizing white blood cells to fight off these harmful invaders by rushing to the affected areas.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold—at least not yet—but we do have five tips to keep you from getting sick.
Wash Your Hands. This is probably the best and easiest way to prevent the transmission of colds and other illnesses (along with avoiding touching your face). Frequent hand washing destroys viruses that you may have picked up from contaminated surfaces. No water? No problem! You can also carry hand sanitizer to eradicate bacteria and viruses in a pinch.
Manage stress. Studies have shown that people experiencing high levels of stress have weakened immune systems and are more likely to catch a cold than their calmer counterparts.1 Whether it be meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or calling a friend or family member to confide in, look for healthy ways to manage your stress.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids—especially water—helps to flush pathogens out of your system. If you do happen to get sick, staying well hydrated is important for your recovery.
Disinfect your phone. Think of all the places you put your phone down during the day—the kitchen counter, bathroom sink, restaurant table. Talk about germ city! To disinfect your phone, try using an alcohol-based disinfecting wipe. Just be sure to power off your phone first, squeeze any excess liquid out of the wipe before using, and dry with a soft lint-free cloth.
Try a supplement. Various immune nutrients can strengthen your immune system, and one of the best is Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). AGE supports a strong immune system by encouraging a healthy inflammatory response and by reducing oxidation.
The aging process strengthens AGE’s antioxidant content, which prompts the body to produce key immune cells called lymphocytes and natural killer cells, as well as more antibodies. AGE also cranks up the action of existing lymphocytes.2
As effective as AGE is, it’s not the only nutrient that can keep your immune system in fighting shape.
Astragalus. This herbal supplement has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some evidence suggests it can enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation by increasing the body’s production of white blood cells (immune cells that fight infection).3
Zinc. This mineral has become a popular treatment for the common cold due to its ability to strengthen the immune system. Some studies show that zinc may reduce the duration of the common cold and may also reduce the number of upper respiratory infections in children.4
Vitamin C. An antioxidant, vitamin C is essential for immune cells to function properly and low levels may increase your risk of getting sick. Adding more vitamin C to your diet or through supplementation won’t reduce your risk of catching a cold, but it may speed your recovery time and reduce the severity of your symptoms.5
If, despite your best efforts, you do end up getting sick, stay home to prevent spreading your cold to other people. It’s also important to practice good cough and sneeze etiquette. That means coughing or sneezing either into a tissue or into your elbow, completely covering your mouth and nose.
Remember, there is no cure for the common cold, but if you follow the tips above you may be able to lessen your chances of catching one and reducing its severity if you do.
- Segerstrom S, Miller G. Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological Bulletin. 2004; 130(4): 601-630.
- Percival S. Aged Garlic Extract modifies human immunity. Journal of Nutrition. 2016; 146(2):433S-436S.
- Block K, Mead M. Immune system effects of Echinacea, ginseng, and astragalus: a review. Integrated Cancer Therapy. 2003; 2(3):247-67.
- Rao G, Rowland K. Zinc for the common cold – not if, but when. Journal of Family Practice. 2011; 60(11): 669-671.
- Hemila H. Vitamin C and infections. Nutrients. 2017; 29;9(4):339.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.