- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
20 Ways to Avoid Catching Colds and Flu
A bad cold or flu can really get you down, both physically and mentally. But if you're immune system is in good shape, there's a good chance you'll be able to keep colds, flus and other bugs at bay this Winter.
Your immune system works through various organs and tissues, protecting you against foreign intruders. Yes, these hairs in your nose and ears are there for a reason, acting as a barrier to nasty bugs that try to enter your body.
If the bugs do manage to get past the various barriers around your body, your immune system will react by sending out an army of white cells. This alerts your system to produce antibodies which will in most cases get rid of that infection in no time. However, this will only happen if your immune system is in tip top condition.
Here's some effective ways to supercharge your immune system and keep colds, flu and viruses at bay this winter.
How many colds do you catch a year?
- Drinks lots of water. This will help to keep healthy mucus flowing as well as flushing out infections.
- Have a glass of wine. Here's a good excuse for putting your feet up with a glass of wine at the end of the night. People who drink a glass or two of wine a day are less likely to catch colds than teetotalllers.
- Quit smoking. Smoking causes damage to the hairs that line your nose. When you catch a cold, these hairs help your body to get rid of virus-filled mucus.
Make an Immune Boosting Soup. Onions and garlic are particularly high in antibacterial agents so try making this simple, tasty immune boosting soup. Just the thing you need on a cold day to keep you warm and comforted.
one whole garlic clove
1 inch grated fresh ginger
vegetable stock cube
3 litres of water
Peel and slice the onions and carrots. Add to boiling water. Add the ginger, garlic clove and vegetable stock cube. Simmer for 1 hour. Enjoy!
- Eat a healthy diet. This is absolutely essential if you want to keep your immune system strong. The easiest way to make sure you get sufficient vitamins is to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Onions are especially good as they contain high levels of antibacterial agents. Carrots and sweet potatoes are high in betacarotene which will help up your level of infection-fighting cells.
- Get plenty of vitamin C. It helps to increase the amount of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies in your body. It's not hard to keep up levels of vitamin C as it's present in so many yummy fruits. Choose your pick from kiwi fruits, oranges, satsumas and blackcurrants.
Vitamin C Food Sources
mg (per serving)
Daily Value (%)
Red pepper (raw) ½ cup
Orange juice, ¾ cup
Orange, 1 medium
Kiwifruit, 1 medium
Broccoli (cooked) ½ cup
Brussels sprouts (cooked) ½ cup
- Take an Ester-C supplement. It's been well proven that vitamin C can really help the body fight infection. It's important to eat plenty of foods containing vitamin C and if you have a healthy diet, you'll probably be getting enough vitamin C. However, if you have a weakened immune system or you're a smoker, a vitamin C supplement can really help. Many people swear by it, saying that a daily supplement keeps them cold free throughout the winter. Ester-C is particularly easy for the body to absorb and won't irritate the stomach.
- Take the herbal supplement, echinacea. Studies show that it boosts the immune system by increasing numbers of white blood cells in the body. Although a more recent study suggests that echinacea isn't as effective at preventing colds as once claimed, the results showed that it still reduces the length of time a cold lasts and decreases the severity of the symptoms.
- Cut down on sugary foods. Don't give in to these sweet tooth cravings. Studies show that eating too much sugar curbs immune system cells, making it more likely that you'll catch colds and bugs. Eating just 100g of sugar a day can significantly increase the risk of you catching a cold...yet another good reason to cut out sugary snacks.
- Take a multivitamin supplement every day. Even if you make an effort to have a healthy diet, many of us with busy lifestyles find it difficult to fit in the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day. The easiest way to make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs is to take a multivitamin supplement. These supplements are designed to have just the right amount of each vitamin and mineral required to maintain a healthy body.
Apple cider vinegar helps you avoid colds
Apple cider vinegar really has stood the test of time. It was used in Ancient Greece and Rome for its medicinal properties and is still being used by many canny people today. If like me you find it hard to drink with water alone, add a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to make it more palatable.
- Open your windows. One of the reasons that so many people catch colds in the winter is simply because we tend to go into a semi-hibernation state the minute the cold weather hits us. We also tend to turn the heating up high and keep all of the windows closed. In some homes, the windows won't be open again until springtime. This lack of ventilation makes it easier for germs to spread from person to person. So to get rid of these nasty germs, open the windows during the day, even if it's just for an hour or two.
- Take apple cider vinegar. The average western diet is too acidic. This gives germs and nasties the ideal breeding ground to rapidly multiply. Contrary to what many people think, apple cider vinegar is a natural alkaline. Just taking a tablespoon a day will help restore the ph balance in your body and will create an alkaline environment that viruses won't survive in.
Given the fact that apple cider vinegar also has many other health benefits, it's definitely worth a try. Apple cider vinegar can help lower blood sugar, reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of cancer.
Celebrities like Megan Fox and Miranda Kerr swear by apple cider vinegar as it helps with weight loss and can help to curb a sweet tooth.
Being angry can make you ill
A study done by Harvard University showed that our immune system can be suppressed for up to six hours after having an angry outburst. The production of a key antibody, immunoglobulin A reduces significantly when we get angry. This antibody is important as it acts as a protective coating on the cells which then acts as a barrier to invading organisms.
In contrast, feelings of compassion actually boost the levels of immunoglobulin A that our bodies make.
- Be happy. Yes, that's right...being cheerful can have a very positive effect on your immune system. Being angry for just five minutes a day can weaken the immune system, making you more prone to catching colds. So next time you feel like blowing up, take a few deep breaths and think about how much better you'll feel this winter when you avoid getting a nasty cold.
- Help your community. Doing voluntary work can give you a huge sense of achievement and well being. This helps boost your immune system no end as feelings of compassion actually increase the levels of antibodies your body makes (see the article on the right). So next time the local community are looking for helpers, why don't you volunteer? It's a real win-win situation.
- Keep busy. Studies show that people with an active social life are four times less likely to be down with the cold or flu. This is because being social creates positive feelings. So don't feel guilty about your regular trips out to the pub with friends. It's doing you the world of good.
- Take some exercise. Exercising regularly can strengthen your immune system and just 90 minutes of exercise a week can make a difference to your overall health. According to Harvard University, the immune system can benefit from doing regular exercise. Exercising encourages better circulation which allows a higher level of movement of the cells and substances of the immune system around the body, letting them do their job more efficiently.
- Wash your hands. Although the majority of infections are transmitted through the air and breathed in by us, a fair amount of germs enter our body via our hands. Just think about it. A person sneezes but doesn't quite get to the tissues in time...so uses his hands to catch most of the germs. He then goes on to spread these germs onto everything he touches. Other people come along and unknowingly touch the item that the germs are lingering on. Germs then easily enter their body when they touch their eyes, nose or mouth. You can see how easy it is to catch a cold. However, washing your hands often can significantly lessen the chance of you catching viruses and colds that are lingering about.
Washing your hands frequently and correctly is also really important. Check out the video below which gives an explanation of how to avoid spreading germs and how to wash your hands the correct way.
How to wash your hands correctly
- Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth to prevent flu. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Infection) avoiding touching your nose, eyes and mouth can help prevent the flu. As flu and cold viruses can easily enter your body through the nose and eyes, avoid touching these areas in the first place as any infected droplets that you have picked up from touching contaminated surfaces will pass into your system.
- Cover coughs with a tissue. Ask children and family members to cover their coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue. If you don't have a tissue to hand, then sneezing into your sleeve is the next best thing to do to stop infection from spreading.This is also something you can encourage within your workforce by putting up posters that promote this.
- Wrap up warm to prevent colds. You've probably heard these wise words from your grandmother, but wrapping up warm can stop colds from developing. A study by the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff University involved a group of 90 students who chilled their feet in cold water for 20 minutes. When compared to the control group of 90 students, twice as many students developed a cold in the following 5 days. The results of this study showed that becoming chilled causes the blood vessels in the nose to constrict, which dampens the immune defences in the nose. This does not cause the cold in the first place but activates the virus already present in the nose to cause symptoms.
- Get plenty of sleep. It's a well known fact backed up by plenty of medical evidence, that lack of sleep suppresses the immune system function. Too many late nights really disrupts the immune function, leading to an increase in the number of colds and flu you're likely to catch. In fact, lack of sleep can disrupt the immune system just as much as stress can. All good reasons to cut down on these nights out and get to bed early.
Looking after you body will strengthen your immune system
Looking after your body by eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and fresh air as well as enough sleep will do wonders for your immune system. Follow these useful tips above in the lead up to winter will go a long way in help you keep colds and flu at bay this year.
Do you have any tips that help keep you healthy in the winter months? It would be great if you could share them in the comments box below.
Disclaimer & Health Warning:
Please note that the information contained in this article is not medical advice. This advice is based on a combination of my own research and personal experience. Please visit your medical professional for further advice.