Don't wait for a tickle in your throat to try and dodge the latest bug. Take these simple steps now to improve your odds of remaining cold- and flu-free.
1. Make time for massage. Besides increasing the production of cells that boost immunity, getting the kinks worked out pushes blood and fluid from around your cells through the lymph nodes. “This helps filter out viruses and bacteria,” says Houman Danesh, M.D., director of integrative health service at Mount Sinai Medical Center in NYC. Afterward, be sure to drink lots of water to flush out toxins.
2. Practice good oral hygeine. Caring for your pearly whites may keep bacteria from working their way into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory distress. For example, hospital patients who brushed three times a day reduced their pneumonia risk by up to 50 percent in an Israeli study. Brushing and flossing also prevents your immune system from diverting cold- and flu-fighting resources to combat inflammation in your mouth, says Joseph Banker, D.M.D., a Westfield, NJ– based dentist.
3. Schedule more sweat sessions. Exercising for at least 20 minutes five or more days a week may cut your chance of catching a cold by nearly 50 percent, according to a study from Appalachian State University.
4. Stress less. People who are chronically tense are more likely than calmer folks to develop cold symptoms, even when both groups are exposed to a virus, say researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. Have trouble decompressing? Try yoga. Practicing once or twice a week may also increase levels of a hormone (interferon gamma) linked to your body’s immune response, Danesh says.
5. Get plenty of C. Marathoners and others who partake in intense activities can halve their chances of developing a case of the sniffles by taking at least 200 mg of vitamin C daily; this nutrient may protect against airway damage caused by heavy breathing. Boost your vitamin C intake—and get a burst of calorie-free pomegranate flavor—
by adding SHAPE Wellness Water Booster ($8; CVS, Rite Aid, and drugstore.com) to your glass.