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The common cold is a fact of modern life. It is disruptive and irritating, but thankfully a mild condition that famously cannot be cured. We simply have to give it time to pass and treat the unpleasant symptoms. However, experts do know how the cold spreads, and so there are things we can all do in our daily lives to avoid catching a cold. When it comes to learning how to avoid catching a cold, the key is to understand how it spreads.

The Facts About Colds

Colds are caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. The symptoms of a cold may include the following;

  • Nasal symptoms – a runny nose or a blocked, stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Body aches – achy muscles
  • Mild fever – raised temperature
  • Sinus pain or pressure
  • Changes in taste and smell

Please note that many of the symptoms of the common cold are also symptoms of other conditions, including Covid-19. If you are unsure, always check with a medical professional and follow local health advice.

The common cold spreads via aerosols (airborne droplets). When a person with the cold coughs or sneezes, these particles are released into the air, these particles can then be breathed in by other people or land on surfaces and contaminate them. If a person touches any contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth, they can become infected with the virus. Common colds spread quickly through crowded places such as schools, nurseries, and workplaces, where people sit close to one another. There is a higher incidence of cold transmission during the winter months.

How to Avoid Catching a Cold

Man washing his hands in a sink
  1. Effective Hygiene and Hand Washing

Good hygiene practices are the key when talking about how to avoid catching a cold. One of the most important things you can do to avoid viral respiratory infections is to wash your hands effectively after touching surfaces or coming into contact with other people. Ideally, hands should be washed for 30 seconds using hot water and soap and ensuring to properly lather over the backs of the hands and under the nails, not forgetting the wrists. Soap and water are best, however, if you do not have access to soap and water (for example, when you are out and about), hand sanitizer can be used. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can quickly disinfect hands, but remember to wash them when you next get the opportunity. Hygiene also includes catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue and safe disposal of tissues, so you avoid spreading anything to others.

Black figures of people in a crowd with a red line through them
  1.   High Transmission Areas

During the cold season, if you can try to avoid crowds or high-traffic areas without it impacting too much on your life, then do so. This might mean choosing to walk rather than taking a busy bus for short journeys. Or it might mean choosing an outdoor coffee vendor instead of a busy cafeteria. It makes sense to take care when in high traffic areas that have a lot of people moving through or congregating. Places with adequate ventilation, more open space, and regular cleaning are always going to be a better choice than closed-in places with poor air circulation. Remember that high-touch areas such as handrails, door handles, push panels, elevator buttons, telephones, etc., used by multiple people will represent a higher risk. While we can’t avoid these things completely, being aware of them means we can avoid touching our faces or food before we have thoroughly washed our hands.

board saying immunityboosters surrounded by nutritious foods

3. Immune-Boosting Nutrition

Never underestimate the power of a strong immune system. By feeding your immune system with lots of nutrient-dense foods, you can ensure that your immune system is at its best and ready to fight off any germs you do come into contact with. Vitamin C is the one we all look to for immune system boosting, but many more of the vitamins and minerals that we should be consuming every day also contribute to a strong immune system. Ensure your iron intake is healthy – many of us don’t get enough iron, and this can impact immunity. Many people forget about nutrition when it comes to how to avoid catching a cold, but it really is a fundamental part of staying fit and healthy. The best way to get all the nutrition you need is to eat a wide variety of colorful fruit and vegetables and a healthy, varied diet every day. Vitamin C is found in fruit and vegetables, along with all of the other immune boosters.

vitamin d tablet held up to sunlight
  1. Sunlight and Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for immunity, and many people are lacking in it, especially those further north of the equator. Many of us don’t get enough exposure to sunlight to produce the vitamin D that we need. Try to get fresh air and sunlight, every day, as much as you can, to boost your vitamin D production, and consider a supplement of vitamin D if you have reason to believe you are not producing enough. Being outdoors is a healthy option, and remember that there is no evidence to suggest that exposure to cold weather can cause a cold! Colds are more common in winter, but this is due to other factors. Exercise outdoors is a good way to boost immunity.

cartoon of woman sleeping
  1. Sleep

Did you know that sleep is crucial for your body’s ability to fend off infection? Poor sleep means lowered immunity. How to avoid catching a cold? Get more sleep! Having a regular sleep pattern where you get enough sleep (this varies from person to person, so you may require anything from 7 to 10 hours) is a good way to help protect your health. A fascinating study into sleep and immunology can be read here and tells us that “Sleep and the circadian system are strong regulators of immunological processes.”

The Common Sense Answer to How to Avoid Catching a Cold

We can never avoid every single cold, and, likely, we will all experience a mild cold from time to time. However, with good hygiene and making sensible choices during the cold season, combined with the nutrition, exercise, and sleep we need to prepare our immune systems, we can all minimize the chances of catching a cold.

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