How to Prevent Getting Sick in Winter


Tired of getting sick each winter season? Instead of stocking up on cold medications and Kleenex why not work on preventing colds altogether?  Here is what the medical literature says on prevention of colds and flus.
 
Vitamin C — Take at least 500 mg daily, especially if you are exposed to cold weather environments. Products like Emergency,
 
Vitamin D — Although this has not been tested in randomized trials, a US population-based health survey (NHANES) found a relationship between high vitamin D levels and fewer respiratory illnesses. Also vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis and possibly coloc canc er and heart disease. Over the counter supplements of 800 – 1000 IU per day may be helpful.
 
Vitamin E — The effectiveness of vitamin E (200 IU/day) in preventing respiratory tract infections was addressed in a randomized controlled trial in elderly nursing home residents suggested a significant but modest reduction in the incidence of the common cold.  Further studies are required to confirm this very marginal benefit.
 
Important Note: However studies have shown that higher dose vitamin E (400 IU/day or greater) may increase all-cause mortality and should be avoided.
 
Echinacea – The most frequently used botanical in the United States, is widely used in hopes of preventing upper respiratory infections. The data did not support this to be true however.
 
Garlic – Although the data is a little bit weak (poorly designed studies) there is evidence that garlic supplements can prevent colds and flus.
 
North American Ginseng – This may shorten the duration of colds when taken preventively, but did not reduce the incidence or severity of illness.
              
Exercise — Definitely helpful if done at least 3 times weekly.

Hand Washing – This is the #1 essential and highly effective way to prevent the spread of infection. Hands should be wet with water and plain soap, and rubbed together for 15 to 30 seconds. Special attention should be paid to the fingernails, between the fingers, and the wrists. Hands should be rinsed thoroughly, and dried with a single use towel.
 
Alcohol-based hand rrubs are a good alternative for disinfecting hands if a sink is not available. Hand rubs should be spread over the entire surface of hands, fingers, and wrists until dry, and may be used several times.  Hands should be washed before preparing food and eating, and after coughing, blowing the nose, or sneezing.
 
Fast facts on Clods and Flus
  • The average adult experiences two to three colds per year, while children average 8 to 12 colds per year.
  • Symptoms of the common cold usually include nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. They typically last for three to seven days, although many people have symptoms (coughing, sneezing, congestion) for up to two weeks.
  • People with colds typically carry the cold virus on their hands, where it can infect another person for at least two hours. Some cold viruses can live on surfaces (such as a counter top, door handle, or phone) for several hours. Droplets containing viral particles can be breathed, coughed, or sneezed into the air.
  • There is no specific treatment for colds. Treatment may reduce some of the symptoms of the cold, but do not shorten or cure the cold. Antibiotics are not useful for treating the common cold.
  • Hand washing can prevent the spread of infection. Hands should be wet with water and plain soap, and rubbed together for 15 to 30 seconds. Alcohol-based hand rubs are a good alternative for disinfecting hands if a sink is not available.

 

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