Editor's note: This content, "20 Tips to prevent cold and flu" by Debi Mazzuca, originally appeared on the White Glove Health blog. It has been posted here with permission.

There is no known cure for a cold or the flu, so prevention is the name of the game from November through April (cold and flu season). Cold and flu viruses are often passed along from person to person and surface to surface in the workplace, at home and at school. According to the CDC, people are most contagious during the first 2-3 days of contracting a cold; and almost immediately and for about 5 days thereafter — even before symptoms develop — after contracting the flu.

A proactive approach to warding off colds and flu can make your whole life healthier. You can’t cure them, but they are not inevitable.

Eat foods containing phytochemicals

“Phyto” means plants, and the natural chemicals in plants give the vitamins in food a supercharged boost. So eat dark green, red and yellow vegetables and fruits.

Get a flu shot or FluMist

Anyone who wants to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with the flu or spreading flu to others should get a seasonal flu shot.

Take a sauna

Researchers aren’t clear about the exact role saunas play in prevention, but one 1989 German study found that people who steamed twice a week got half as many colds as those who didn’t. One theory: When you take a sauna you inhale air hotter than 80 degrees, a temperature too hot for cold and flu viruses to survive.

Wash your hands

Most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact. Someone who has the flu sneezes onto their hand, and then touches the telephone, a desktop or a kitchen glass. The germs can live for hours or even weeks on a surface, only to be picked up by the next person who touches the same object. So wash your hands often, for at least 15-20 seconds, with soap.

If no sink is available, sanitize with an alcohol-gel hand sanitizer.

Eat yogurt

Some studies have shown that eating a daily cup of low-fat yogurt can reduce your susceptibility to colds by 25 percent. Researchers think the beneficial bacteria in yogurt may stimulate production of immune system substances that fight disease.

Don’t touch your face

Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose or mouth. Touching their faces is the major way people catch colds.

Let fresh air into your home at least once a week even if it is extremely cold outside

Studies have shown that the air inside your home is 2 to 5 times worse than the air outside. Allowing fresh air in will help to get stale, unhealthy air out and fresh air in.

Clean shared items

Any surface that multiple people come into contact with is a potential source of flu or cold viruses. Wipe down phones, keyboards, handles and doorknobs with alcohol wipes or other sanitizer- type wipes.

Don’t cover your sneezes and coughs with your hands

Germs and viruses cling to your bare hands, so covering coughs and sneezes with your hands results in passing along your germs to others. When you feel a sneeze or cough coming, use a tissue, then throw it away immediately. If you don’t have a tissue cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand.

Drink plenty of fluids

Water flushes your system, washing out the poisons as it rehydrates you. If you reuse your water bottle, be sure to wash it out daily. Do not share bottles, cups or straws with anyone.

Get fresh air

Fresh air is important, especially in cold weather when indoor heating dries you out and makes your body more vulnerable to cold and flu viruses. Also, during cold weather more people stay indoors, which means more germs are circulating in crowded, dry rooms.

Do aerobic exercise regularly

Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart to pump larger quantities of blood, makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood, and makes you sweat once your body heats up. These exercises help increase the body’s natural virus-killing cells.

Eat healthy foods

Such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Don’t smoke

Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent colds. Even being around smoke profoundly zaps the immune system. Smoke dries out your nasal passages and paralyzes cilia, the delicate hairs that line the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs that sweep cold and flu viruses out of the nasal passages. Experts contend that one cigarette can paralyze cilia for as long as 30 to 40 minutes.

Cut alcohol consumption

Heavy alcohol use destroys the liver, the body’s primary filtering system, which means that germs of all kinds won’t leave your body as fast. The result is that heavier drinkers are more prone to initial infections as well as secondary complications. Alcohol also dehydrates the body — it actually takes more fluids from your system than it puts in.


There’s evidence that when you relax, your interleukins — leaders in the immune system response against cold and flu viruses — increase in the bloodstream.

Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold or flu

Although you can’t always tell when someone has a cold or the flu, if it seems obvious, avoid him or her. If a co-worker is ill, take steps to clean any shared surfaces, such as the coffee maker or door handles.

Avoid contact with known allergens

Allergies affecting the nose or throat may increase the chances of getting a cold or flu.

Avoid kissing on the lips of you feel yourself getting sick

This includes your children as well as significant others.

Stay home if you are sick

If you are sick, stay home till your contagious period passes.