How to avoid catching a cold this winter

Author: talkhealth

Date: Oct 2019

It’s officially cold and flu season, which means up to 15% of us will suffer with a cold virus during the coming months, according to data from the World Health Organization.

Both the common cold and flu are contagious, and a nasty cold alone can last up to two weeks! However, there are certain things you can do to help prevent yourself getting sick this year.

How to avoid catching a cold

Eat more vegetables

Adding more vegetables to your diet can help support a healthy immune system and keep any viruses at bay. Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are particularly beneficial, as they are packed with vitamins and boost cell-surface proteins, which are key to maintaining your immune system.

Practice good hygiene

Taking care of yourself works wonders for your mental well-being but keeping clean can also help prevent your risk of catching a cold. Showering regularly and using your own towel is important to avoid any germs spreading and washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and using antibacterial handwash and hand gel on the go can also kill germs to help prevent you catching a cold.

Top up your vitamin D levels

Adding Vitamin D to your diet and lifestyle is another way to keep your immune system healthy and avoid catching a cold. Try exposing yourself to sunlight as much as possible during the day and load up on good sources of vitamin D, including egg yolks, mushrooms, salmon and more. If you’re finding it difficult to add these to your diet, you can buy vitamin supplements to keep on track.

Try some exercise

Working out regularly doesn’t just help your body build muscle and improve your well-being, but it can also help prevent you catching a common cold. Even gentle exercise can strengthen your immune system. So, if hitting the gym sounds daunting or is unachievable for you, try getting outside for a 15-minute walk to boost your circulation, improve your cardiovascular health and decrease your risk of catching a cold.

Clean your home

According to medical experts, cold viruses can live on hard surfaces for several days and in areas of your home such as light switches, faucets, and kitchen and bathroom shared surfaces are all risk zones for sharing viruses and catching a cold. To avoid this happening, keep your home clean by using antibacterial sprays and cleaning products and ensure you scrub down these areas thoroughly on a regular basis.

If you have a desk at home or at work, you can also use antibacterial wipes to keep your keyboard, mouse and desk area clean and germ-free.

Get a good night’s sleep

As always, sleep is at the heart of good health and it is extremely important to help prevent a cold. That’s because your body releases cytokines when you sleep, which are a type of protein that help your body fight infections by regulating your immune system.

In this study, adults who slept a minimum of eight hours showed a greater resistance to a cold virus than those who had poor sleep. As a result, those who slept less were 3% more likely to develop a virus after being exposed to it.

If you are looking for extra support and guidance on how to get a better night’s sleep, check out our free online sleep support programme, where we send you weekly tips on a range of sleep topics, delivered straight to your inbox.

Reduce your stress levels

Stress is a part of everyday life but too much stress can leave your body susceptible to catching a cold. That’s because a stress hormone called cortisol, which is released to help you deal with stressful situations and help your body fight inflammation and disease, lessens in effectiveness when released all the time.

This can leave you feeling run down, can damage your immune system and increase your risk of picking up viruses.

Read our article about how to identify and reduce stress

How to avoid a cold when commuting on public transport

A massive 80% of commuters believe they have picked up a cold on public transport, as research by a cold and flu specialist found that just one sneeze can infect up to 150 commuters within five minutes.

There are a few ways to avoid catching a cold on a train or bus to work, which include:

  • Moving carriages or seats if you are sat close to someone coughing and sneezing
  • Avoid touching surfaces such as door buttons and handlebars where possible
  • Carrying antibacterial hand gel to use regularly on public transport
  • If it’s not possible to move and someone sneezes or coughs close to you, position yourself to stand sideways rather than directly opposite the person and try not to breathe in for a few seconds (we know this can be difficult!)

Get a flu vaccine

The flu jab doesn’t protect you against all flu influenzas, but you are protected against common strains and it’s definitely worth having if you can’t afford to take time off work or big commitments with the flu. If you are in a risk group (if you’re 65 years old or over, pregnant or have certain medical conditions) then you might be eligible for a free flu vaccine.

To find out more about how to look after your health and well-being, check out our free online well-being support programme, where we offer extra support and guidance on a range of health topics, such as mental health, heart health, diet and more.

Information contained in this Articles page which doesn’t state it has been written by talkhealth, has been written by a third party, who has not paid to be on the talkhealth platform, and has been republished with their permission. talkhealth cannot vouch for or verify any claims made by the author, and we do not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments mentioned. The content in our Articles pages should not be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 24 October 2019

Next review: 24 October 2022