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How To Stop a Cold Before It Starts

Natural preventatives and some common sense will keep you from getting sick — or staying that way for long.

It’s a double-whammy: getting sick during the winter combines feeling crummy with many people’s less-than-favorite time of year. And if you do have to go outside when you have a cold, you’re probably going to be even more uncomfortable.

Getting sick at least once during the winter is, arguably, inevitable. With more and more of us crowded onto planes, buses, trains and offices, the likelihood of contracting a virus is high. But the suggestions below can help you shorten the length of a cold, avoid a repeat or avoid a worsening (a cold-related cough that turns into bronchitis, for example).

Sleep: If you need a concrete reason to turn off the tube or close the computer and get to bed (beyond that it’s “good for you”) then consider this: Dr. Diwakar Balachandran, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston told WebMD, “A lot of studies show our T-cells go down if we are sleep deprived, and inflammatory cytokines go up. … This could potentially lead to the greater risk of developing a cold or flu.” And naps count! If you can’t get all your zzz’s in at night, consider a midday snooze — even 20 minutes can make a difference.

Vitamin C: While some physicians say that vitamin C has a negligible effect on a cold’s duration, there are plenty of studies (and anecdotal evidence) that regular doses of ascorbic or calcium ascorbate can affect a cold’s strength, and may even prevent them by supporting the body’s immune response. Vitamin C is inexpensive, and it’s practically impossible to overdose on the stuff, so it’s not a big risk to work it into your winter routine. Chewable vitamins and drink mixes like Emergen-C make it easy to incorporate this into your meals or snacks.

Fruit

Echinacea and Goldenseal: The medical jury is still out on whether these two long-used immune-boosting herbs actually help control the duration and intensity of colds (there are studies that go both ways), but natural health practitioners swear by them. They are most effective when used at the first signs of illness, not once you are already sick. Check with your doctor if you are taking any medications (herbs can interact with some of them), but if kept on hand, a liquid tincture — the capsule forms of these herbs are thought by many to be less effective — taken when you have that “uh oh, I feel like I’m coming down with something” feeling might help keep your illness at bay, or be much milder.

Relaxation and stress reduction: Stress is known immune suppressant, so the more often you are stressed out, the less energy your body has to fight disease. Yoga, qigong, tai chi and meditation — or even a night in with the TV and computer off and just a good book and a cup of tea can help your body take the energy it needs to fight off disease.

Exercise: Also fairly well documented is the connection between a strong immune system and regular, heart-pumping exercise. Walking is great, but if you can, make part of your walk brisk. Participation in extreme sports and pushing yourself beyond your limits actually has an immune-damping effect, so the idea here is moderation.

Teetotaling: It’s boring but true: alcohol and other drugs decrease immunity. It’s no coincidence that it’s this time of year, when we are encouraged to indulge the most, that we tend to get sick. A great tactic is to say yes to a glass of wine or a cocktail — but sip it slowly and savor it. You’ll be good to drive, avoid illness and keep the pounds off, too. Or choose just one night to have “too many” drinks — like Christmas Eve or New Year’s, instead of drinking away Thanksgiving through Jan 1.

 by STARRE VARTAN     source: www.mnn.com    November 7, 2011
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How Exercise May Help Us Fight Off Colds

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS     DECEMBER 16, 2015   

Working out could help us fight off colds and other infections, according to a timely new study. The study, which found that regular exercise strengthens the body’s immune system in part by repeatedly stressing it, was conducted in animals. But the results most likely apply to people, the researchers say, and could offer further incentive for us to remain physically active this winter.

In broad terms, our immune system reacts to invading microbes through a variety of cells. Some of these cells don’t directly combat the infection, but instead promote the development of inflammation. When we think of inflammation, we usually think of fever, swelling and redness. But inflammation can also be a good thing, helping the body to heal itself as it fights invading microbes.

The problem is that inflammation can easily get out of hand. If the inflammatory response to an infection or injury is too robust or indiscriminate, the inflammation can ultimately cause more tissue damage and lingering health problems than it prevents.

Scientists have long tried to determine why inflammation sometimes grows rampant in the body. One thing they’ve noticed is that fat cells are particularly adept at producing substances that promote inflammation, in part as a response to messages from the immune system.

But fat cells also often produce inflammatory substances in greater amounts than needed to fight germs, in some cases even when there is no actual infection. As a result, past studies have found, obesity in animals and people can lead to elevated levels of inflammation throughout the body and, interestingly, a weaker overall immune response to an infection or illness.

Because of these links between fat cells and the immune response, scientists at Chosun University in Gwangju, South Korea, and other institutions recently began to consider whether exercise might affect the body’s response to germs. Among the many effects of physical activity, exercise generally reduces the amount of fat in the body and also alters levels of inflammation.

So for the new study, which was published last month in Scientific Reports, they gathered 28 average-weight male laboratory mice and tested their blood and fat cells for markers of inflammation and other immune cells. They then had half of the mice begin a swimming regimen, during which the animals paddled around a warmish pool for 10 minutes, five days a week, for three weeks.

Mice aren’t natural or eager swimmers and tend to thrash in the water, so the exercise was moderately strenuous for them, the equivalent of what 30 minutes or so of jogging might be for us.

The other mice remained sedentary.

Throughout the three weeks, the scientists monitored all of the animals’ levels of inflammation and what was happening, if anything, to their fat cells.

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As expected, the swimmers showed increases in markers of inflammation, especially in their muscles, as their bodies worked to heal the slight tissue damage that occurs during regular exercise. Over all, they displayed higher levels of inflammation than the unexercised animals. Meanwhile, their fat cells were shrinking in size.

After three weeks, to test the animals’ immune response, half of the swimmers and half of the inactive mice were inoculated with Staphylococcus germs. In both mice and people, these germs cause skin infections and serious lung problems that resemble pneumonia.

Both the mice that had exercised and those that had remained sedentary began to grow ill from the Staph infections. But the differences in the animals’ immune responses proved to be considerable, the scientists found.

Inflammation rapidly blossomed in the sedentary, infected animals, as their immune systems pumped out high numbers of cells that promote inflammation. Many of these cells migrated to the animals’ lungs, suggesting that excessive inflammation was taking hold there.

Meanwhile, the infected swimmers had much lower levels of these pro-inflammatory cells, lower even than in the uninfected swimmers. The numbers of these cells in their lungs were particularly low. At the same time, the sickening swimmers were producing far more of a potent type of antimicrobial immune cell that, like internal Purell, directly kills germs, especially in their lungs.

Over all, the infected swimmers did not become as sick as the infected sedentary mice. They also experienced much less lung damage.

Precisely how swimming had changed these animals’ immune systems remains somewhat unclear. But, said Yoonkyung Park, a professor of biomedical science at Chosun University who oversaw the new study, the exercise seemed to have had two signal effects.

Most obviously, it reduced fatness, which, in turn, lessened the often-excessive levels of pro-inflammatory substances produced by fat cells.

At the same time, however, the workouts caused small amounts of continuous tissue damage and inflammation. This process, the researchers said, seems to have familiarized the animals’ bodies with trauma and how best to initiate healing.

The swimmers, in effect, appeared to have developed a more refined and effective immune response. Their immune systems appear to have learned to produce a beneficial amount of inflammation, but not too much. So when germs invaded, the system could rely less on indiscriminate, blunt-force inflammation and instead turn to targeted, antimicrobial killers.

Of course, as we all know, rodents are not people.

But Dr. Park believes that the effects are likely to be similar in people. “We strongly believe that long-term, regular exercise can considerably improve the immune defense mechanism,” he said, including, thankfully, “against viral infections such as colds and the flu.”


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The 4 Best Ways to Prevent a Cold

Follow these simple tips to avoid becoming a sniffly, snotty, glassy-eyed mess when cold season rolls around

BY ALEXA TUCKER    Friday, October 9, 2015

Getting a cold sucks, but it’s not inevitable. And while 33 million diagnoses each year—according to a CDC report—might suggest otherwise, we found four simple strategies that can help you escape cold season unscathed.

But you have to be diligent. And by diligent, we mean you can’t just read this and sort of follow the advice. You have to stick to it. Because the moment you let up is when colds take hold. (You’ll probably have to get a little lucky, too.)

1. Stop Touching Your Face

This tip may seem obvious, but it’ll be tough to follow through. That’s because people touch their faces an average of 3.6 times every hour, a 2012 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases found.

And that’s a problem, because bringing your hands to your face can spike your cold risk. Workers who report sometimes touching their nose or eyes with their fingers were 41 percent more likely to come down with an upper respiratory infection than those who keep their hands off, according to researchers in Japan.

While you can catch the common cold through germ droplets in the air, the most efficient form of transmission for that particular infection is actually hand contact with secretions that contain the virus, the researchers say. So if your hands touch a surface with the virus on it, and then you touch your face, you can easily introduce the bug into your body.

If you can’t help touching your face, just make sure your digits are clean. That means scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” in your head), making sure to hit the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under the nails, the CDC says.

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2. Get Plenty of Sleep

Skimping on shut eye can leave you susceptible. People who sleep fewer than six hours a night are four times as likely to catch a cold as those who log seven hours or more, a study published in the journal Sleep found.

This may be because sleep loss messes with certain types of immune cells called B and T cells, which are critical in protecting us from viruses, says study coauthor Aric Prather, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at University of California San Francisco.

“Additionally, sleep loss is related to an increase in inflammation, which is believed to play a role in cold symptom severity,” he adds.

3. Hit The Gym

You should keep up your workout routine when the temperature drops. The reason:  People who exercise five or more days a week take up to 46 percent fewer sick days than those who exercise one day or less a week, according to a study from Appalachian State University.

When you exercise, your blood flow and body temperature increase, and your muscles contract. These factors signal your body to recruit important disease-fighting cells that are stored in your lymphoid tissues.

These cells are then recirculated throughout your system, says lead researcher David Nieman, Dr.P.H. This allows your body to detect—and kill off—potential disease-causing intruders.

To jack up your immune system, Nieman says near-daily cardio of 30 to 60 minutes a session should do the trick. (He notes that resistance training can work, too, but says it should be total-body training, since it appears to be more effective in immune-cell recruitment than routines that target one or two body parts.)

4. Hug It Out

Preventing a cold may truly be in your own hands. Stressed-out people who were more likely to have hugged within the past day are better able to fight off the virus than those who are more hands-off, a study in the journal Psychological Science found.

“Hugging is a physical expression of social support, and when people feel they are supported, they also feel they are better able to handle stress,” says study co-author Denise Janicki-Deverts, Ph.D., a research psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

And that’s important, because stress itself has been connected to increased cold risk, possibly because it may spark the release of certain hormones that can wreak havoc on your immunity, says Janicki-Deverts.


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How To Avoid Seasonal Sniffles

Lisa Kaplan Gordon    September 29, 2015

For me, the first sign of autumn isn’t falling leaves; it’s a miserable head cold that  turns into a sinus infection that ruins the first days of crisp, cool air. It turns out I’m not alone. Seasonal sniffles are a real thing.

Does Cold Give You a Cold?

Actually, a virus gives you a cold, not outside temperature. But dropping temperatures do force you inside more, and that’s where you’re most likely to come in contact with sneezing people spreading the cold virus. In fact, the warmer the temperature, the less likely you we are to catch colds, which could lead to bronchitis and pneumonia.

“For each one degree increase in temperature, there is a two percent decline in deaths from both influenza and pneumonia,” Dr. Michael Cirgliano told Philadelphia magazine.

When temperatures drop:

  • The body’s natural defense mechanisms start to sputter. Cold temps can hinder circulation to your nose – a first responder to disease – and decrease the white blood cells that battle infection.
  • Cold viruses replicate more easily in cool weather.
  • Falling autumn leaves also stir up allergies to pollen and mold, which fly around the air as you rake. Allergy symptoms often are mistaken for colds.

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How To Avoid Fall Sniffles

The same way you avoid winter, spring and summer sniffles.

  • Wash hands frequently.
  • If you suffer from allergies, wear a dust mask when raking leaves.
  • Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise to boost your immune system.
  • Raw honey contains traces of pollen. Eat a few tablespoons a day to desensitize your body to pollen and reduce allergy symptoms.
  • Some studies have shown that eating yogurt with probiotics can boost your immune system to fend off colds and to shorten their duration if you do catch one.
  • Keep hard and soft surfaces clean, which will kill bacteria and viruses that land there.

Don’t Worry; Be Happy

Stress is a pox on immune systems, and autumn is often a stressful time when classes resume, prep for Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas begins and work projects gear up after everyone returns from summer vaycay. During autumn, try hard to reduce stress (but don’t stress about it).

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Make time for the things, activities and people that bring you joy. Joy is an antidote to stress.
  • Pay attention to relaxing by taking a yoga class, drawing a hot bath or learning to meditate.
  • Delegate to reduce large numbers of stress-causing tasks.


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The 5 best soup ingredients to beat a cold

Bolster your immune system with these delicious soup ingredients that help fight off the common cold and flu.

By Matthew Kadey, RD

1. Pumpkin seeds

Forget the medicine cabinet. If you really want to fend off a cold or flu, find comfort in a healing bowl of soup. Grandma’s chicken noodle remedy isn’t the only soup to lift your spirits when sick. Research shows a number of foods (which also make for some delicious soup ingredients) can boost your body’s natural defences against viruses. Keep your immune system in fighting shape and feed that pesky cold by slurping up soups infused with these immunity-boosting, sniffle-busting good guys. 

These jack-o’-lantern castoffs are brimming with zinc. A number of studies suggest that loading up on zinc – which aids in the function of immune cells – can help reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms when under the weather. 

Soup’s on: Toast handfuls of pumpkin seeds and sprinkle them over squash soups or bowls of creamy potato or mushroom soups. 

2. Miso

A staple in Japanese kitchens, miso is made from fermented soybeans. The fermentation process produces a healthy army of probiotic bacteria, which can cut down the number of days a cold or flu will leave you symptomatic. Dutch scientists attribute this to the probiotic’s activation of certain genes in the walls of the intestines. 

Soup’s on: For a quick immune system–enhancing soup, simply whisk some miso with warm water and dried mushrooms, and let it steep for five minutes. A miso broth is also a great base for soups full of chicken, noodles and Asian greens. 

3. Barley

The soluble fibre found in oats and barley is already hailed for helping lower cholesterol, but it can also keep your nose from dripping like a leaky hose. University of Illinois scientists discovered soluble fibre increases the production of an anti-inflammatory protein that strengthens the immune system. Beta-glucan, the main soluble fibre in chewy barley, has been found to slash the number of sick days taken by those with upper respiratory tract infections. 

Soup’s on: Barley and zinc-rich beef make a dynamic soup pairing. Also try serving barley in soups with chunky vegetables, lentils, mushrooms or turkey. 


4. Carrots

It’s likely that Bugs Bunny wasn’t knocked off his feet by a cold or flu too often. His orange-hued vegetable of choice is brimming with beta-carotene. In the body, beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A. In addition to supporting vision, one of vitamin A’s many roles is keeping your immune system running smoothly. A more robust immune system is a surefire way to help send a cold packing. 

Soup’s on: Try this immunity-friendly creamy carrot soup made with sweet potato, another beta-carotene powerhouse. Consider using toasted pumpkin seeds as a garnish. Also work chunks of carrot into beef and barley soups. 

5. Salmon

Is a regular rotation of winter sniffles getting you down? Then be sure to reel in salmon – one of the few foods that brings vitamin D to a pot of soup – to keep future runny noses at bay. An Archives of Internal Medicine study involving nearly 19,000 subjects found those with the lowest average levels of vitamin D were 36 percent more likely to develop upper respiratory infections than those with higher levels of the sunshine vitamin. Similar research published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases found subjects with better vitamin D status were less likely to take sick days from work than those who were given placebos. Washington State University researchers also suggest that astaxanthin – the pigment that gives salmon its pink glow – can increase immune cell activity. 

Soup’s on: Use fresh or even canned salmon in seafood chowders. Or grab your chopsticks and slurp up a soup replete with salmon, soba noodles, bok choy and miso broth. 

Avoid these ingredients when you’re sick

While you should take in plenty of fluids when fighting a cold or flu to stay hydrated (the main benefit of chicken noodle soup – thanks, Grandma!), it’s best to abstain from imbibing alcohol. Wine, beer, and liquor may compromise your immune system and reduce the body’s ability to fight infection.  


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How to Treat Cold and Flu Symptoms

Natural Ways to Kick a Cold

WebMD Feature     By Paige Axel      Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

Trying to get over a cold? There are lots of things you can do to ease the symptoms as you get better. Here some easy ones.

Turn Up the Heat

When a cold strikes, chicken soup and hot tea can ease your symptoms. The reason: heat. As the warmth moves down your throat toward your stomach, it helps loosen mucus, making it easier to cough out.

Steam works the same way. Sitting in the bathroom with a hot shower running can relieve your stuffy nose and head.

Stay Hydrated

When you have a cold, your body makes more mucus. Making mucus uses up your body’s moisture.

Getting extra fluids thins out mucus and makes it less sticky, which makes it easier blow or cough out. Limit drinks with caffeine and alcohol, as they can be dehydrating.


Soothe Your Skin

You blow your nose a lot when you have a cold. The result can be red, chapped skin on and beneath your nose.

Add a dab of petroleum jelly to the raw area, or use facial tissues that contain lotion.

Gargle Salt Water

If you have a sore throat, make a salt-water gargle by mixing a teaspoon of salt in a small glass of warm water. The salty-warm combo provides short-term relief.

Consider Supplements

Some supplements have been found to shorten — but not cure — colds. Ask your doctor about zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea.

Tell your doctor before starting any new supplement or medication. Your doctor will make sure it won’t interact with any other drug you’re taking.

Prevent the Spread

You should stay home while you’re getting over your cold. If you have to go out, try to limit the number of people you come in contact with.

Cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze to keep from getting germs on your hands. A little courtesy goes a long way.

Hang in there. The common cold usually goes away in about a week, so take it easy, take care of yourself, and you’ll be back to normal before you know it. 

 


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6 Purely Psychological Effects of Washing Your Hands

Washing your hands doesn’t just keep you healthier; it has all sorts of subtle psychological effects as well.

Hand washing sends an unconscious metaphorical message to the mind: we don’t just cleanse ourselves of physical residues, we also cleanse ourselves of mental residues.

So, here are six purely psychological effects of washing your hands…

1. Recover optimism

Washing your hands can wash away the feeling of failure.

In a study by Kaspar (2012) participants who failed at a task, then washed their hands, felt more optimistic afterwards than those who didn’t.

Unfortunately washing their hands also seemed to reduce their motivation for trying the task again.

Still, hand washing can help boost optimism after a failure.

2. Feel less guilty

In the mind, dirt is associated with guilt, so theoretically washing doesn’t just remove dirt, it also removes a guilty feeling.

One study had participants think about some immoral behaviour from their past (Zhong & Liljenquist, 2006). One group were then told to use an antiseptic wipe, and another not.

Those who washed their hands after thinking about an immoral behaviour felt less guilty. The antiseptic wipe had literally wiped away their guilt.

3. Take the moral high ground

Feeling clean directly affects our view of other people.

When people in one study washed their hands, they were more disgusted by the bad behaviour of others (Zhong, Strejcek & Sivanathan, 2010):

“…”clean” participants made harsher moral judgments on a wide range of issues, from abortion to drug use and masturbation. They also rated their own moral character more favorably in comparison with that of their fellow students.” (Lee & Schwarz, 2011)

So, when people feel clean themselves, they take the moral high ground and are harsher on the transgressive behaviour of others.

 
Wash your hands, wash your mind: recover optimism, feel less guilty, less doubtful and more…
 

4. Remove doubt

Sometimes, after people make the wrong decision, they try to justify it by pretending it was the right decision.

It’s a result of cognitive dissonance, and it’s one way in which people lie to themselves.

However, hand washing may wipe away the need for self-justification in some circumstances, leaving you better able to evaluate your decision the way it really is (Lee & Schwarz, 2010).

5. Wash away bad luck

Washing the hands can mentally wipe away the effects of perceived bad luck.

When participants in one study had some experimentally induced ‘bad luck’ while gambling, washing their hands seemed to mentally wash away their bad luck (Xu et al., 2012).

In comparison to those who didn’t wash their hands, hand washers carried on betting as if their bad luck was forgotten.

6. Guilt other people into washing their hands

Apart from its psychological effects, hand washing is the cheapest and best way of controlling the spread of things like colds and other infectious diseases.

So, getting people to wash their hands is really important.

To this end, a public health study flashed different messages onto the walls of public toilets as people entered, including “Water doesn’t kill germs, soap does,” and “Don’t be a dirty soap dodger.” (Judah et al., 2009)

The most effective overall message, though, was: “Is the person next to you washing with soap?”

So it seems when you wash your hands in a public toilet, you help guilt other people into washing theirs as well.

Not only are you staying healthy, you’re also doing a public service by shaming others into following suit.

A clean slate

All these studies are demonstrating that when we wash our hands, we also wash our minds clean:

“…the notion of washing away one’s sins, entailed in the moral-purity metaphor, seems to have generalized to a broader conceptualization of wiping the slate clean, allowing people to metaphorically remove a potentially broad range of psychological residues.” (Lee & Schwarz, 2011)

Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog.  
source: PsyBlog