Welcome to Winter! We are experiencing a good cold snap in Colorado right now and with that usually follows an incidence of contracting a cold. No matter the correlation between colds and the cold of Winter, the fact of the matter is that getting sick is not fun, makes you grouchy and impairs your ability to exercise.
Here are a few tips to relieve the symptoms or shorten the length of a cold if you should be one of the unlucky ones to catch one this Winter:
1. Drink liquids. Yep, Mom's old saying is still worthwhile today! Specifically, hot fluids can help break up congestion and even more important are the benefits of tea. Tea has compounds called theophyllines which help to open up the airway and make breathing easier. Green and black teas are my favorite but any kind will work.
2. Soup...it's what's for dinner. Actually, soup is great anytime even if you are not sick but one ingredient in particular, garlic, can be of even more benefit. Crushed garlic releases a compound called allicin which is a natural antibiotic that helps to fight bacterial and viral infections. If you're of Italian descent you don't have to worry about eating enough garlic but if you are not, spice up your soup a bit by adding 2-4 crushed garlic cloves per pot of soup.
3. Kill germs. Did you know that germs can live up to 3 hours on your skin? Yikes! If you want to reduce the spread of sick germs, be sure to sanitize more commonly touched items around your house such as doorknobs, light switches, remotes, the handle to the refridgerator and freezer and sink faucets and knobs. If you have kids, you know that the risk of the "germ fairy" entering your house is even greater so scrub a dub dub your kids rooms also!
4. Eat yogurt. Yep, you've likely heard this before for other reasons but yogurt contains probiotics which are microorganisms that enhance your immune system functioning. The live bacteria found in yogurt is even more important if you are on antibiotics as these meds destroy both good and bad bacteria in your body.
5. Don't believe the hype. Way too many people try to up their intake of certain nutrients and compounds on the onset of a cold but not all of them actually have proof that they work. Popping vitamin C won't ward off the illness. Echinacea has been researched and not found to help prevent a cold and taking zinc doesn't help lessen the time of a cold either. I know, hard to believe but true in most cases.
I think some of the best things to do to try to prevent a cold during the winter are focus on eating antioxidant rich foods (fruits, veggies and whole grains), drink a good cup of hot tea per day, exercise but not too exhaustion, manage stress and get good quality sleep. Of course you don't want to surround yourself with sick people either so if someone is sick where you work or at home, minimize your interaction with them if at all possible.
Stay healthy and cold-free this season!