How to Prevent the Common Cold

Seven Methods:Practicing Good HygieneAvoiding Sick PeopleChanging Your DietGetting Extra VitaminsChanging Your Lifestyle HabitsTrying Natural RemediesRelieving the Onset of Cold Symptoms

From the runny nose and irritating cough to the sore throat and fever (or worse), a case of the common cold is sure to make your life miserable for a few days. The worst part is that, in a month, it can happen all over again. Practice strategies to prevent the common cold and stay healthy year-round.

Method 1
Practicing Good Hygiene

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    Wash your hands frequently. Washing your hands in the most preventable way of contracting the cold or flu virus. Scrub your hands with soap and water before eating, and before and after using the bathroom. To wash your hands, follow these instructions: [1]
    • Wet your hands with warm or cold water.
    • Apply soap to your hands.
    • Rub your hands to lather them together. Scrub everywhere. Do not forget to scrub under your fingernails, between your fingers, and the backs of your hands.
    • Scrub for at least 20 seconds. Singing “Happy Birthday” is a quick way to remember how long.
    • Rinse your hands with clean water.
    • Shut off the tap with a paper towel so you do not contaminate your hands again.
    • Use a paper towel to open the door of a public bathroom.
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    Use hand sanitizer if you don’t have soap. Washing your hands is the best way to keep them clean. But if you do not have soap and water available, you can use a 60% alcohol based hand sanitizer.[2]
    • If your hands are visibly dirty, it’s best to use soap and water.
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    Keep your hands away from your face. Don't rub your eyes, nostrils, or ears if your hands aren't clean. Spreading germs from your hands to your face can lead to infection

Method 2
Avoiding Sick People

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    Keep your distance from other people. Try to keep at least 2 feet of distance between you and other people. Colds can be transmitted more easily if you’re closer to someone with a cold.
    • A cold virus can be contagious for up to 2 weeks. If a friend has a fever with cold symptoms, he is more than likely contagious. Even if your friend says he feels better, he might still share the virus with you.
    • If someone is on antibiotics for his cold, he can still spread the virus. Antibiotics do not treat the viral infection.
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    Do not share cups, straws or other personal items. The cold virus can be dormant for 24 to 72 hours before symptoms begin.[3][4]
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    Limit your exposure at places like airports and malls. Places where there are a lot of people are going to have more cold germs. If you are concerned about getting sick, stay away from these types of places as much as you can.[5]
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    Remind your kids to wash their hands. While you may do everything you can to prevent getting a cold, you may still risk exposure if your kids get sick. Young kids are prone to catching colds from school or daycare. Reminding your kids about hand-washing may reduce the risk of them getting sick too.[6]

Method 3
Changing Your Diet

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    Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. While hygiene is the most important, eating a variety of healthy foods will do your body good. Feed your body nutrient-rich foods and cut down on sugar, processed and fried foods.[7]
    • Keep in mind that there is no proven benefit that eating any certain food will ultimately keep you healthy.[8] A healthier diet does provide nutrition that can help your immune system fight off infections. For example, you cannot eat a bowl of strawberries, not wash your hands all day, and then expect to be healthy. Doing a combination of many strategies will be most helpful in preventing colds.
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    Eat yogurt to help boost your good bacteria in your gut. Yogurt is part of a healthy diet. Yogurt contains good bacteria, called probiotics, which helps fight infection.[9]
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    Eat foods to boost immunity. Many foods have key vitamins or antioxidants which are helpful in fighting off infection. Some of these foods are:[10]
    • Oranges: These are always a staple when people think of Vitamin C. Eat an orange each day or drink a cup of orange juice to get a good amount of Vitamin C.
    • Apples: These have an antioxidant effect.
    • Papayas: These have a ton of Vitamin C.
    • Grapefruit: These have a lot of vitamin C in them, plus other great nutrients, such as cancer fighters.
    • Fish: This helps by fighting inflammation associated with colds. Eat deep water fatty fish such as wild salmon, mackerel, and whitefish.[11]
    • Garlic: This has antioxidant properties that help fight a cold.
    • Red peppers: These have even more Vitamin C than oranges.
    • Milk: This is a good choice because of its Vitamin D content.
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    Drink lots of water. Keep yourself from getting dehydrated. Men should consume 13 eight-ounce servings of fluids per day and women should drink about 9 eight-ounce servings of fluids per day. This counts both water and fluids you've consumed through food.[12]
    • Water can also prevent dryness in your nose or throat, which may also help you avoid getting a cold.
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    Gargle tap water. Water is generally good for you, and a Japanese study showed that gargling plain tap water could prevent a cold.[13] Researchers for this study suspected that chloride in the water prevented the transmission of colds.

Method 4
Getting Extra Vitamins

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    Take a daily multivitamin. Vitamins will help you fight off colds by supporting your immune system.
    • Getting extra vitamins has not been proven to prevent colds, but it will likely shorten the duration of a cold if you do get one.[14]
    • Don't take separate vitamins. Taking too much of extra vitamins has the potential to make you sick.
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    Increase your intake of Vitamin C. Vitamin C will help your body fight off a cold. Some studies show that vitamin C can shorten a cold’s duration as well.[15]
    • Drink diluted orange juice to increase your vitamin C intake as well as your water intake. Don’t drink too much juice since juice contains sugar.
    • Aim to get about 250-500 milligrams of vitamin C per day.[16]
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    Get Vitamin D every day. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to higher risk for infection.[17] Get some sunlight to boost your vitamin D levels. We make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Just 15 minutes of sun, or half the time it takes for your arms and face to become pink from the sun, is enough to boost the immune system.
    • If you spend more than 15 minutes in the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen. Some experts believe that you can still get the vitamin D benefits from the sunlight even when you protect your skin.
    • In winter when there is usually less sunlight, researchers are discovering that people may have a higher risk for respiratory infections such as colds. This is due in part to low vitamin D levels. Supplement low vitamin D levels with tablets or cod liver oil during the winter months.
    • Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test.
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    Increase your intake of zinc. Some studies have shown that zinc can help prevent or shorten a cold.[18] Eat foods rich in zinc, including beef or lamb, seafood, spinach, cashews and beans.[19]
    • Don’t take too much zinc. More than 40 milligrams per day may cause headaches, drowsiness, dizziness and other symptoms.
    • Some studies show that zinc shorten the duration of a cold in adults, but not in children.[20]

Method 5
Changing Your Lifestyle Habits

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    Sleep much longer than normal. By resting longer than you normally do, your body will get the rest it needs to regenerate. Your body’s day-to-day activities leaves wear and tear on the cells within your immune system. Good rest helps rebuild those cells in order to function every day.[21]
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    Exercise even when you are sick. Believe it or not, exercise can help you prevent a cold. Exercise regularly to stay healthy, reduce stress, and boost your body’s energy levels.[22] Even if you’re sick, keep exercising. You may need to slow it down a bit, especially if your energy levels are low.
    • Check with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen if you haven’t been exercising regularly.
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    Reduce stress. Stress affects you in a number of ways, including increasing the possibility of you getting sick. Stress also lengthens your recovery time. Keep your stress levels down by identifying the cause, learning coping mechanisms, taking a yoga class, and resting when you can.[23]

Method 6
Trying Natural Remedies

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    Take herbal remedies. Herbs like thyme, licorice root, garlic, echinacea, and elderberry extract can help prevent and shorten the duration of colds.[24], [25]
    • Brew one or more of these herbs into tea and drink a pot of it.
    • These herbs are also available at natural foods stores as supplements.
    • If you have high blood pressure or pollen allergies, you should be cautious when taking herbal supplements. Consult your doctor before you use these types of remedies.
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    Eat a teaspoonful of raw honey. Honey has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, which can help prevent a cold and shorten infection time. Eat a teaspoonful or two of honey or mix it in with a cup of herbal tea.[26]
    • Avoid the bear-shaped jars! This honey has been filtered, so many of the benefits have been removed. Studies have shown that most of this honey isn't honey at all. Instead, go for raw honey. It can be found at Amish-type stores or natural food stores, or be bought directly from the beekeeper, and is usually found in mason jars. It is relatively expensive, with large jars sometimes costing $10, but is worth it if you have the money.
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    Try sprinkling brewer’s yeast on your food. Brewer’s yeast is a kind of yeast left over from brewing beer. It is readily available in powdered form at natural health food stores. Brewer’s yeast can be used to prevent and treat a number of illnesses, including the common cold.[27] Sprinkle a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast on your food every day.
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    Take ginseng capsules. Ginseng is a root herb used in traditional Chinese medicine to prevent various ailments. Take a ginseng capsule of 200 milligrams per day to help prevent the onset of a cold.[28]

Method 7
Relieving the Onset of Cold Symptoms

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    Drink lots of fluids right away. When you feel the symptoms of a cold start, hurry and drink some fluids.[29] This will help thin out any mucus and relieve a sore throat.
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    Gargle salt water. If you have a scratchy throat, gargling salt water will relieve it. Mix a teaspoonful of table salt in a glass of warm water. Take a sip of the water mixture and gargle. Spit it out. Repeat several times a day.
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    Use a saline spray to help nasal congestion. If your nose is stuffy, try a saline spray to help relieve some of the pressure.[30] Saline sprays or nasal drops are readily available at drug stores.
    • Follow the package’s instructions when using saline spray.
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    Take over-the-counter medications for aches and pains. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken to treat minor aches and pains associated with the common cold.
    • You can also take other over-the-counter medications, such as DayQuil or NyQuil to treat your cold symptoms.
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    Get lots of rest. When you feel cold symptoms coming on, go to bed early. Try to get extra rest to help your body fight off the cold.
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    Use tissues and sneeze into your elbow. Use tissues to trap coughs and sneezes. This will help stop the spread of germs. Sneezing into your elbow is the best way to prevent spreading if you have no tissue available.[31]
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    Stay away from antibiotics. If you feel a cold come on, do not run to the doctor and ask for a Z-pack, which are antibiotics.[32] When you take antibiotics unnecessarily, bacteria might survive the antibiotic treatment. Then this drug-resistant bacteria will multiply and increase the possibility of other bacteria surviving future antibiotic treatments.[33]
    • You may also get diarrhea or vomiting from antibiotics, which could result in dehydration.
    • If you develop a fever, it may be more than a cold. Talk with your doctor if you are concerned.


  • Think, stay, and be happy. Your inner thoughts can decide your health.[34]


  • Always consult a doctor if any change of health occurs. If you are already sick, you should still stick with these methods. They are good strategies for maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Colds and Viruses