How to avoid catching a cold

Everyone wants to avoid catching a cold, but colds and influenza can be dangerous for older adults or people with chronic diseases. The University of Rochester Medical Center cautions that older adults are at greater risk for complications, as well as drug interactions between their prescriptions and over-the-counter cold medications.

Preventing infection is the best approach. Here are some steps that can help you stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands — One of the most effective ways to prevent infection is to wash your hands frequently. Use soap and warm water, and scrub for 20 seconds. Hand sanitizers may be effective in a pinch, but plain old soap and water work just as well.
  • Avoid people who are sick — Keep some distance from people who are sneezing and coughing. If you can’t avoid them, limit the time you spend around people who appear to be sick.
  • Drink plenty of water — Staying hydrated is an important part of maintaining good health.
  • Stay physically active — Studies have shown that people who are physically active are less likely to catch a cold.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke — Smoking has been shown to reduce the body’s immunity to respiratory infections.
  • Eat a healthy diet — A well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help keep you healthy.
  • Manage stress — Stress weakens the immune system.
  • Get enough sleep — If you don’t get enough sleep or if you don’t sleep well, you’re more likely to get sick, studies show. Eight hours of sleep every night is still the standard recommendation.
  • Use tissues to cover sneezes and coughs — This may not help you avoid a cold, but you can avoid passing one on. Throw tissues in the trash immediately.
  • Get vaccinated — We talked about vaccines for adults in last week’s column. An annual flu shot, a shingles vaccination and a pneumonia shot are recommended for older adults. The Rochester Medical Center says these vaccinations may help prevent complications if you do catch a cold.