Chicken soup, echinacea, R&R — they're all great remedies for the common cold, but why suffer through one if you can keep the pesky rhinovirus from attacking your system in the first place? And what better way to prevent colds than drinking beer and singing in the shower?
Take a few of these tips and call us in the morning:
1. Order a mushroom pizza
Simple white button mushrooms contain powerful antiviral proteins that can strengthen your immune system, according to studies at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Yes, sliced mushrooms in a green salad work, too, but they’re more fun on a pizza.
2. Sing in the shower
Keeping nasal passages moist in winter's dry air prevents the insidious rhinovirus from setting up shop in your nose. Bathe your sinuses in a steam-filled bathroom. Steam is a natural decongestant, and a hot shower loosens mucus in the nasal passages. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the shower for fun; it has antimicrobial properties when inhaled. While you're at it, start singin' in the rain. Belting out, say, a show tune encourages deep breathing, bringing the healing steam deep into your nasal passages.
3. Have a couple of drinks
Avoid happy hour (too many people in tight quarters), but don't be afraid of having a few of beers. Moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent colds. In one study, nonsmokers who downed up to four drinks a day were less likely to develop colds than people who didn't consume alcohol. The reason, suggest researchers, is that alcohol may limit the replication of cold viruses or have an anti-inflammatory effect that suppresses the production of mucus.
4. Dance with yourself
Tai chi, the graceful slow dance you do alone, can rev up your body's illness-fighting defenses by as much as 47 percent and even triples the protection you get from a flu shot. The secret to tai chi's elixir-like effects, scientists suspect, lies in its slow movements and controlled breathing. Tai chi marshals the power of both to fight germs. It also eases stress and helps you to sleep better. All this contributes to a healthy immune system. To find a tai chi class, visit worldtaichiday.org.
5. Hang with your pals
Camaraderie is a cold-virus killer. In a study at the University of Pittsburgh, evil scientists shot live cold viruses up the noses of volunteers. Those who reported having strong friendships and family relationships were the least likely to catch a cold.
6. Have sex twice a week
An oft-cited study from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that people who have sex once or twice a week have stronger immune systems than people who have sex less often. Researchers analyzed the saliva of 111 college students. Those students who reported having sex up to two times a week had 30 percent more of the antigen immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their saliva. IgA is the body's first line of defense against colds and flu, say the researchers.
7. There's no place like "ohm"
The Sanskrit word ohm, which is chanted at the start and conclusion of yoga practice, can ease cold symptoms, especially stuffy noses, and prevent colds. The vibrations caused by the humming chant "OHhmmmmm" loosens phlegm and opens passages that allow sinuses to drain. Would you rather buzz? Then make like a bee. The "buzzing bee breath," another yoga exercise, called bhramari pranavama in Sanskrit, works similarly.
8. Leave home
The reason we suffer more colds in wintertime is that we spend more time indoors, in enclosed quarters and in close contact with infectious people. Go outdoors and you may actually reduce your risk of becoming infected.
9. Play touch football
Regular exercise can strengthen the body's resistance to colds by stimulating movement of certain immune cells, says David Nieman, DHSc, a professor of health and exercise science at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. In research comparing sedentary adults with moderately active adults (those who took 45-minute brisk walks five days a week), Nieman found that walkers caught colds half as often as nonwalkers. Walk with friends or play a team sport for the added benefit of social interaction. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people with diverse social networks suffer fewer colds than people who are introverted and socially isolated.
10. Reprise "Blazing Saddles"
Eating bean-based chili is a delicious way to warm up after a winter run — and it can also help prevent colds and the flu if you make it with the right ingredients. Wake Forest University nutritionists say chili contains an arsenal of immunity-boosters. All of the vegetables (including the onions and garlic) offer immune-system-strengthening phytochemicals, but the tomatoes are particularly powerful. In addition to the phytochemical lycopene, tomatoes contain potassium and vitamins A and C. The tofu and beans supply an immunity-boosting isoflavone called daidzein, and the hot sauce will open up your nasal passages to avoid congestion.
11. Visit Grandma
Homemade chicken soup has been a remedy for colds since the 12th century. No doubt you've heard about the scientific studies confirming its efficacy. In one, researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that Grandma's classic soup, prepared with a lot of vegetables, mitigates the production of inflammatory compounds responsible for cold symptoms like a runny nose and congestion. "To get rid of common cold symptoms, you have to get rid of the inflammation that's causing them," says Jack Gwaltney Jr., MD, a professor emeritus of medicine at the Center for Prevention of Disease and injury at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
12. Make mud pies
Let the kids play in the dirt. Many scientists believe that getting dirt under our fingernails has helped us survive as a species by introducing bacteria and viruses to our bodies that spur the development of a healthy immune system. Studies suggest that when kids put dirty fingers in their mouths, they're doing their immature immune systems a favor by helping them develop appropriate immune responses. By the same token, some researchers believe owning dogs and cats can help boost the immune systems and reduce allergies in children. Now you can think of bacteria as friendly germs that help your kids fight cold viruses that they would otherwise incubate and deliver to your stressed-out and compromised adult immune system.