Every year I dread cold and flu season—not just because I hate feeling sick but because, like most of you, I'm already spread thin between work and family responsibilities; being stuck in bed for days just isn't an option. Luckily, over the years, I've picked up a few scientifically proven tricks that have helped me stay healthy when the mercury drops.
Have H2O in Flight
Canadian researchers have found that air passengers are over 100 times more likely to get a cold than those who travel by bus, train, or subway. My rule for holiday air travel: Hydrate. The plane's dry air can sap moisture from the lining of your nasal passages, creating tiny cracks that make you susceptible to infection. Water can help moisten those membranes.
There's actually no conclusive research proving echinacea to be effective against the common cold. What do I take instead? Vitamin D.
Studies have found that D can stimulate the production of a virus-killing protein, and taking D supplements (aim for 2,000 IU a day) can lead to fewer viral infections.
Brave the Cold
No matter how low the temperature, I take a brisk walk every day. Exercise boosts the circulation of immune cells throughout the body, and research shows that walking 30 to 45 minutes a day, five days a week in winter can cut your sick days in half.
Warm Up with Tea
New research from the University of Michigan supports the growing body of evidence that the antioxidant quercetin may protect against infection by preventing viruses from replicating. Black and green teas are packed with quercetin, so sip a hot cup once a day.
These drugs are not only ineffective against the flu—which is caused by a virus, not by bacteria—but can lead to adverse effects like upset stomach, diarrhea, and even yeast infections. If you get the flu, ask your doctor for an antiviral drug such as Tamiflu. But act fast—studies have found that these drugs work best within 48 hours of the first symptoms.
Flu viruses can survive on surfaces for over two hours, but you can't wash your hands 24-7—so when is it most important to scrub up? Scientists from the University of Virginia recently pinpointed the areas of your home most likely to harbor germs: refrigerator handles, remote controls, and doorknobs.
Enjoy a Comfort Food
really can treat a cold. The hot vapor expands your airways, which helps to clear mucus from the nasal cavity. Plus, University of Nebraska researchers found that chicken soup has an anti-inflammatory effect that may soothe a sore throat.
Too late? You're already fighting the sneezing, sniffling, aches and pains?
Find out what Oprah and her top health experts do to kick their colds