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Fend Off Disease with a Hug!

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Nutrition, flu shots, handwashing—all those preventative measures are great, but the easiest way to fend off the flu may be by showing some love: Hugs help protect against stress and infection, according to a new Carnegie Mellon study. (Check out these 5 Easy Ways to Stay Cold- and Flu-Free too.) 

Despite the instinct to avoid close contact during flu season, researchers found that the more often you embrace someone, the less likely you are to develop stress-related infections and severe illness symptoms. Why? Researchers aren’t sure of the exact reason, but they are sure of this: Hugging is typically (and not surprisingly) a marker of close relationships, so the more people you envelop, the more social support you have.

Past research has shown that people who experience ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off a cold virus, said lead author Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon. Among the 400-plus healthy adults intentionally exposed to a common cold virus in the study, though, those who reported more social support and racked up more hugs had less severe flu symptoms than friendless participants, regardless of whether they fought with others during their illness.

So while we understand the instinct to shy away from your sniffling brother, embracing those you love this holiday may actually keep you healthier. But you should still probably find out How to Avoid Being Sneezed On (and Getting Sick), just to be safe.

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