The beginning of the school year means cold season is about to run its course. Are you in danger of getting sick? We chatted with licensed RN Jackie Garcia to find out how you can protect yourself during cold season.
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Many people turn to gargling with salt water when they already caught a cold or flu, but this simple act may be able to help prevent you from getting that dreaded virus in the first place. A study found that gargling regularly with plain tap water helped prevent upper respiratory tract infections (aka a cold). The study also found that those who got sick got over it quicker with gargling. “Gargling has always be seen as a way to help lessen cold and flu symptoms,” Garcia says. “But gargling can also help with prevention as it is very cleansing.”
If you feel like you are getting sick, get up and move! Researchers from Appalachian State University in North Carolina found that those who exercise regularly get fewer colds. Exercise provides a temporary rise in immune system cells, which help ward off viruses. “Regular exercise has so many health benefits, and preventing illness is one of them,” Garcia says. Yet another reason to put on those running shoes!
There’s a reason surfers have little to no sinus problems: it’s the salt water. If you feel like you are getting sick or want to prevent it, try a nasal saline rinse. Also known as a “neti pot,” this act of irrigating your sinuses originated in India, and has been around for centuries. Researchers from the Czech Republic found that regular use of a saline rinse can prevent colds as well as shorten the duration once the cold had set in. “It takes 24 hours for a cold to really latch on the sinuses,” Garcia said. “A saline rinse can flush out any mucus, viruses, bacteria, and even pollen. It’s a great natural remedy.”
Warning: Never use tap water in your saline rinse as it can contain bacteria or chemicals that can be harmful. Instead, boil the water first, and let it stand till it’s lukewarm. The use of bottled filtered water is recommended. Also, make sure to always clean your saline rinse device after use.
While green tea tends to get most of the attention in the health department, white tea is equally, if not more, beneficial for your health. “All teas are very high in antioxidants, but white is said to be the highest,” said Garcia. Pace University researchers found that white tea extract had anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, more so than green tea. So next time you feel that cold coming on, ditch your daily coffee and drink white tea instead.
When you’re feeling a little run down and not like yourself, let the sunshine in. Researchers from Harvard University found that children with low vitamin D levels (which you get from the sun) got sick more often during cold and flu season. “So many positive things are coming out about vitamin D, and many people are deficient in it, because we have become afraid of the sun,” Garcia explains. “There is nothing wrong with spending 10 to 30 minutes in the sun (which is all you need to produce vitamin D). If you would rather not risk the sun exposure go for a supplement instead, but always talk to your doctor first!”
Spend Time With Friends
While you may want to avoid people like the plague during cold and flu season, spending time with your friends may be your best defense. Numerous studies have determined that strong friendships and relationships can positively influence your health. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that those who are social get fewer colds during cold and flu season. “They say laugher is medicine for the soul, and I personally never stop laughing when I am with my chicas!” Garcia says. “Friendships are important, and they can also be beneficial to your health.”
In this crazy, busy life, many of us have a hard time finding time to relax. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that daily mediation may cut the number of sick days you get a year in half. “Stress is extremely bad for your health, and meditation helps reduce stress,” said Garcia. “Even meditating for just three to five minutes daily can help.”