Monday, January 17, 2011

Stay healthy so you can keep on sparkling!

How to Prevent a Cold or the Flu

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
The fall and winter months bring crisp weather, comfy sweaters, and often the hallmark sniffling and sneezing of the common cold or a flu. While there is no cure, there are several simple steps you can take to ensure that the colder months are spent snuggling in front of the fire instead of sneezing into a box of tissues.


  1. Be knowledgeable about the basics of colds and flus. Both the cold and the flu (short for influenza) are caused by a virus. A virus is a small infectious organism that needs to live inside a cell to replicate itself, killing the host cell but not before the virus is spread.[1] Cold viruses infect the upper respiratory tract cells, while the flu virus impacts cells deeper down in the respiratory tract and has more severe symptoms than the cold virus.[2] All viruses are specific to one type of cell. Some key things to bear in mind with colds and flus include:

    • Colds and influenza are not caused by bacteria. Hence, antibiotics do not help prevent or cure a cold or flu, although they may be prescribed for a secondary bacterial infection.[3]
    • Cold and flu germs outside a host body usually die in three to seven days.
    • Cold and flu viruses are heat sensitive (they multiply more quickly when it is cool) and they first multiply in your nasal passageways then spread from there.
    • Most colds and flus are caught by placing infected hands to your eyes or nose or in your mouth.
    • You can infect others a day before your symptoms appear.
    • Incubation period is usually 3 days. But can range anywhere from 1 to 4 days.[4]
    • Rarely fatal on its own, the flu can lead to fatal secondary infections such as pneumonia if the patient has a weakened immune system.[5] This can be detected by a worsening cough, hardship with breathing, coughing up blood, and/or a persistent and recurring fever.[6] Immediate medical attention is essential.
    • There are thousands of strains of influenza viruses; this means that it's unlikely that your doctor can pinpoint the exact virus you've got but will suggest your treatment based on the traditional pathway of a virus. If there is a particularly virulent strain of a virus doing the rounds, your doctor will usually take that into account as well.
    • It is possible to either aid or hinder the body's immune system by things we eat, drink, or do.

  2. Practice good hygiene. The principal means for transferring a virus is through contact with an infected person. As such, it is important to wash hands frequently and to cover the mouth and nose when sneezing, using a tissue or handkerchief to cover your nose and mouth. Doing this may prevent those around you from getting sick.[7] Tissues should be disposed of with care,[8] and handkerchiefs washed quickly in hot water. If you sneeze or cough into your hands, wash your hands immediately or you will simply transfer the virus.[9] In addition, avoid touching your face, in particular the eyes, mouth, and nose,[7] if you are spending time with someone who has a cold, or if you've been touching things like door knobs and surfaces in public places.[10]

    • Avoid giving out pencils, paper, and other items, and refrain from borrowing pencils, paper, etc. when a cold or flu season is in full swing.
    • Clean shared objects regularly to prevent transmission of the virus. Wash children's toys when children are sick.[11]
    • Keep towels separate for each member of the family and for guests. Viral germs can live for hours on cloth towels.[12] It is also a good idea to prefer kitchen towels over cloth ones when there are sick people in the house.
    • Keep all household surfaces clean during the cold and flu season. Make a simple solution of soap and water, or use a disinfectant solution, and wipe down surfaces, door knobs, telephones, sinks, remote controls, light switches, keyboards, etc., with consistent regularity.[13]
    • Carry around a bottle of antiseptic wipes or gel if a sink is not available. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are recommended because they are less likely to damage your hands leaving you more prone to infection.

  3. Avoid contact or being in close proximity with people who have a cold or the flu where possible. Have sick people sleep in a separate room from everyone else.[14] For married people, this may feel odd but it is the best means for preventing transfer of the flu or cold and for ensuring that one person is able to look after the other person without also falling sick.

    • Stay home if you're sick and keep sick children and householders at home when they're sick, to prevent spreading the cold or flu. Doing this will help prevent others from catching the illness from you or from other householders. [7]

  4. Keep as healthy as you can by taking good care of yourself. There are sleep, well-being and nutritional considerations to take into account when trying to prevent the onset of a cold or flu. While it isn't proven that healthy practices prevent getting a cold or flu,[15] a healthy lifestyle helps your immune system to be in its best possible shape, giving you the best chance of being able to fight off the onset of a cold or flu. Things to do to maintain your health include:

    • Get adequate sleep every night. Get at least seven to eight hours sleep nightly.
    • Eat healthily. Healthy foods such as vegetables, fruit, grains, etc., are an important part of keeping your body nutrition at its optimum. Processed, fatty, and sugary foods don't give the immune-boosting protection that healthier food does. Sugary foods can decrease immune function for up to five hours.[16]
    • Exercise regularly. Exercise has immune-system enhancing effects that can help ward off illness. Don't overdo exercise though, as too much strenuous or excessive exercise can leave you prone to illness.
    • Reduce your stress levels. Stress can harm the ability of your immune system to work optimally, and people who are stressed tend to catch colds more than less stressed people.[17] Manage your stress well.
    • Keep well hydrated. Dehydration inhibits the immune system's functioning. Drinking water may also help wash cold and flu viruses from your throat to your stomach where they cannot survive.
    • Avoid smoking or quit if you already smoke. The smoke from cigarettes irritates airways and this can lead to increased vulnerability to colds, including passive smoke.[18]

  5. Consider supplements if you believe in their utility. Many supplements are suggested for warding off illness. In many cases, the jury is still out on their effectiveness at actually preventing the onset of the cold or flu, but if you view supplements as a means for boosting the effectiveness of your immune system rather than as targeted prevention solutions, then these can be a part of your overall cold and flu warding-off arsenal, in tandem with practicing good hygiene and healthy lifestyle choices. As with any supplement, do your research, talk to your health professional, and be totally aware of the possible side effects for your own individual case before taking any of them. Here are just some of the many possibilities out there:

    • Vitamin C: whether in the form of a tablet, drink, or fruit, vitamin C might help you prevent the common cold.[19]
    • Zinc:  Zinc helps the development of white blood cells which ensures that your immune system is functioning properly.[20] Good choices to increase zinc in your diet include beef, oysters, poultry, pork, fortified cereals, yogurt, or milk.[21]
    • Selenium: Selenium is a nutrient which plays an important role in the immune system. Selenium helps white blood cells to make cytokines-proteins which help remove flu viruses from the body.[22] Good sources of selenium include eggs, turkey, mushrooms, tuna and other seafood.
    • Elderberry: A relative of blueberry, elderberry has been found to have powerful anti-viral properties. These anti-viral properties are partly due to the fact that elderberry inhibits neuraminidase, the enzyme used by the virus to spread infection to host cells. This is the action most anti-viral medicines take. However, elderberry has shown to have no side effects. A small study published five years ago showed that 93 percent of flu patients given extract were completely symptom-free within two days; those taking a placebo recovered in about six days. Elderberry has also show to powerfully increase the immune systems function. This is attributed to its highest content of flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Also, other compounds in elderberry, called anthocyanins, have an anti-inflammatory effect; this could explain the effect on aches, pains, and fever.[23][24]
    • Garlic: Garlic has powerful anti-viral, antibiotic and anti-fungal properties and boosts the immune system in general. Studies have shown that those consuming garlic daily are two-thirds less likely to catch a cold.[25]
    • Echinacea has a reputation as an immune booster, and research seems to validate this. A 2007 study by the University of Connecticut combined findings from 14 previously-reported trials examining echinacea and concluded that echinacea can cut the chances of catching a cold by more than half, and shorten the duration of a cold by an average of 1.4 days.[26]
    • Quercetin: This has not only been found to have extremely high antioxidant characteristics, but it has also been found to have immune boosting capabilities, particularly when under stress, and especially when taken with vitamin C.[27] It is also anti-viral.[28] Sources include skins of apples (red apples have the most), red or dark grapes, sun-dried raisins, broccoli, red onions, berries (particularly blueberries, cranberries, lingonberries), citrus fruits, cherries, pears, green tea, ginkgo biloba, grapefruit seeds, black tea, leafy vegetables and beans.
    • Andrographis: This herb is widely available in supplements. It is traditionally used to treat infections and diseases, often used before antibiotics. Andrographis is also reported to possess anti-hepatotoxic, antibiotic, antimalarial, anti-hepatitic, anti-inflammatory, anti-snake venom, and anti-pyretic properties, besides its general use as an immuno-stimulant agent. It has even recently been proven to posses anti-HIV properties.[29]
    • Coconut oil: This contains lauric acid which has been found to possess anti-viral and antibacterial properties and monolaurin (found in lauric acid) can destroy lipid-coated viruses such as influenza.[30]
    • Goldenseal: This contains berberine which has been found to increases blood flow to the spleen and stimulate the activity of macrophages, white blood cells that are an important part of the immune system. It is usually advised to take goldenseal with echinacea for the purpose of warding off colds and flus.[31]
    • Licorice: Licorice is a potent antiviral herb used against a wide range of viral agents. It contains eight anti-viral compounds that all inhibit as well as block viruses from penetrating the body's cells. It enhances immunity by boosting levels of interferon and the glycyrrhizinic acid found in licorice has been found to halt the growth of some viruses such as influenza A.[32] It has an action similar to that of elderberry (see above).
    • Probiotics (yogurt, etc.): A probiotic will fortify your intestinal flora, which are essential for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. This is a key factor to good health and a strong immune system, and probiotics appear to stimulate white blood cells.[33]
    • Black tea: People who drank 5 cups of black tea a day were found to have 10 times more interferon in their blood than those not drinking it.[34] The amino acid responsible (L-theanine) is also found in green tea and decaffeinated versions.

  6. Get vaccinated. Flus can be prevented or lessened through vaccinations, and vaccines change from year to year to keep up with the viral changes so that they target the most likely flus doing the rounds for that season.[35] People who have lowered immunity, including the very young and those over 50, can benefit from having a flu vaccination but be sure to do your research before seeking one, as you need to be satisfied that this is the most appropriate approach to warding off influenza in your own case.
  7. Stay warm. Although getting cold doesn't actually cause a cold or flu (the viruses do), being cold can reduce your stamina and make you feel miserable and fatigued. If your body feels cold and you have already been exposed to the flu or cold virus, your personal reaction to the cold may be enough to allow the flu or cold to take hold.



  • You will still get colds and flus; however, your main aim is to minimize their impact, severity, and duration by being fit, having a boosted immune system and by keeping active.
  • Drinking unsafe water and eating unsafe produce that might contain dangerous amounts of E. coli may lead to symptoms such as stomachaches, vomiting, and nausea.
  • The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. During the entrance of flu season, nurses and volunteers give flu immunizations in random places. Look for it in your grocery store, airport, even as random as local fairs and markets. The best places are pharmacies, hospitals, doctor's offices, and MinuteClinic's. (In the USA, MinuteClinic is recommended because they give out flu immunizations every day of the vaccination season, not one specific day like others.)
  • It sounds hokey, but the time it takes to sing the following song twice is the time it takes to kill germs while washing. Sing the following twice while washing your hands (to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"):Wash, wash, wash your hands.Wash them nice and clean!See the germs to down the drain, Get them nice and clean! Another song to sing when washing hands is Happy Birthday, sung twice.
  • Avoid cortisone. It depresses the immune system.[36]
  • Nasal irrigation with warm salt water can help clear your sinuses of mucus which is carrying the cold or flu virus.  Most respiratory viruses are heat sensitive and water that is just two or three degrees above body temperature can be effective at immobilizing these viruses.
  • Ginger contains phenolic compounds which are responsible for relaxing the muscles of the stomach, and explains ginger’s effect in easing motion sickness. Gingerols found in ginger, have been discovered by Japanese researchers to block the bodies reflex to vomit. Ginger has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-pyretic properties and so can be used for some of the symptoms associated with cold and flu.[37]
  • Honey contains vitamins and minerals which enhance the immune system.[38] Raw honey is the best.
  • Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and immune stimulant.[39] When taken internally, it may tend to thin blood.


  • See your doctor if a high fever persists for more than 24 hours; less time for kids and take any baby or infant with a high fever to the doctor straight away.[40]
  • Don't put all your eggs into one basket - don't rely on one vitamin supplement or just exercise to keep you in shape.  Keeping fit and healthy is a combination of nutrition, exercise, positive thinking and careful hygiene.
  • Don't take your cold or flu to work. It is unfair to other workers and you will recover more quickly if you rest for the first day or two of a cold or flu.  Lingering colds and flus make you appear ghoulish and martyrish at work - use sick leave to improve quickly. Even if you have to go without pay for a day, this is likely to be a better return than carrying an illness that affects your performance for months to come.
  • Always know the possible side effects of supplements before using them and speak with your doctor first to see if the medicine is right for you.
  • Check with your doctor before using licorice if you have high blood pressure.

 Things You'll Need

  • Fresh water
  • Healthy food
  • Suitable supplements

 Related wikiHows

 Sources and Citations

  1. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1154, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  2. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1159, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  3. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1154, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  4. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1157, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  5. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1159, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  6. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1159, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 http://www.Cdc.Gov/flu/protect/habits.Htm
  8. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1157, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  9. Lauren Gelman and Megan Othersen Gorman, Cold and Flu Old Wives' Tales Debunked,
  10. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD, 10 Tips to Prevent the Common Cold,
  11. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD, 10 Tips to Prevent the Common Cold,
  12. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD, 10 Tips to Prevent the Common Cold,
  13. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD, 10 Tips to Prevent the Common Cold,
  14. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1157, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  15. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD, 10 Tips to Prevent the Common Cold,
  17. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD, 10 Tips to Prevent the Common Cold,
  18. Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD, 10 Tips to Prevent the Common Cold,
  19. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1157, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  20. Amanda MacMillan and Tamara Schryver, RD, 9 power foods that boost immunity,
  21. Amanda MacMillan and Tamara Schryver, RD, 9 power foods that boost immunity,
  22. Amanda MacMillan and Tamara Schryver, RD, 9 power foods that boost immunity,
  25. Amanda MacMillan and Tamara Schryver, RD, 9 power foods that boost immunity,
  26. University of Conneticut, Echinacea Could Cut Chances of Catching Common Cold By More Than Half,
  27. American, Winter is coming.. give your immune system a boost!,
  31. Nutra Legacy, Top 10 Goldenseal Healing Effects,
  32. Herb Wisdom, Licorice root,
  33. Amanda MacMillan and Tamara Schryver, RD, 9 power foods that boost immunity,
  34. Amanda MacMillan and Tamara Schryver, RD, 9 power foods that boost immunity,
  35. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Viral Infections, p. 1157, (2003), ISBN 978-0-7434-7733-8
  37. 10 best cold and flu fighters,
  38. Kelly Joyce Neff, The Healing Power of Honey,
  39. Natural News, Turmeric Improves Cell Health, Boosts Immune System, Protects Against Cancer and More,
  40. Fever and Taking Your Child's Temperature,

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Prevent a Cold or the Flu.  All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Great post! I have been dealing with a cold for a week and a half now...the first in a couple of years! I do follow the rules but this one snuck in my body! ~Val

  2. green tea and garlic.. will stop it dead in its tracks! good luck!