Ever wonder why you always seem to come down with a life-interrupting virus this time of year, while other people you know sail through the season sniffle-, cough-, and ache-free?
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Follow these simple steps to boost your virus protection more:
Get some fresh air
Common wisdom has it that staying indoors, where it’s warm and toasty, is easier on your immune system than being outside in the cold. Problem is, being inside puts you in close constant contact with other people—and their germs.
Not only does escaping into the fresh air give you a break from all those germs circulating inside, but going for a stroll can actually boost your immunity. Exercise leads to an increase in natural killer cells, neutrophils, and monocytes, which ultimately increases immune function.
There are a trillion reasons why taking time to chill out might be the last item on your to-do list. But here’s why it should be a priority: Being stressed will increase your susceptibility to catching a cold. That may be because, over the long term, it leads to the ongoing release of stress hormones, such as glucocorticoids.
These impede your body’s ability to produce cell-signaling molecules called cytokines, which trigger a disease-fighting response from your immune system. You’re also less likely to take care of yourself—get ample sleep, eat right, exercise—when you’re stressed.
Keep your hands clean!
Cold and flu can spread all too easily through touch. Keep your fingers away from your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible, and make sure to master the art of hand-washing. Soap and water remain your most effective tools there, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Germs can grow on bar soaps, so use the pumped kind—or better yet, a hands-free dispenser and choose regular soap over antibacterial. Lather for a solid 20 seconds before rinsing, and make sure to dry thoroughly (but not on your germy clothes!).
The magic bullet
Research shows that raw garlic has powerful antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antibiotic properties. But you need to eat it raw in order receive the most health benefits. Allicin, a powerful medicinal compound found in the plant, is only released when mixed with saliva. Feel a cold coming on? Chew a clove of garlic a few times a day — followed by a sprig of parsley for fresh breath.