Health & Wellness

You don't have to catch a cold. 3 basic precautions to keep you healthy

How many colds does the average person get a year? Here's what the Centers for Disease Control says:

That's two to three too many, right?

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Should you skip a cold-weather workout, forgo a winter hat? Myths busted

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Should you skip a cold-weather workout, forgo a winter hat? Myths busted

Play Video - 1:22

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If you're traveling for the holidays —which might include hours next to a coughing stranger on a plane or opening presents with a sneezing child — it may be impossible to avoid catching one.

Related: Is this why we're sneezing? Warmer temps keep pollen, mold in the air

That is, unless you take these precautions:

Wash up

Cold viruses live in the nose. Every time you touch your nose, you’re moving virus to your hands. But a good hand washing after touching your face eliminates the virus. And definitely wash your hands after hanging out with a sick person.

“Washing your hands, of course, is … the best way to prevent getting sick,” says Jill E. Holdsworth, chair of the Emergency Preparedness Committee of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

Wash with warm water and soap for 20 seconds—or the time it takes to sing “Jingle Bells” twice.

Don’t forget to clean off surfaces, such as counters, desks, phones, the fridge, toys, the car, and remote controls. A 2011 study found that 41 percent of household surfaces tested positive for rhinovirus when a sick person is in the house.

“[Sanitizing] is very important for the prevention of any kind of viral or bacterial infection,” says Dr. Heather Rosen, medical director of UPMC North Huntington Urgent Care, who wasn’t involved in the study.

A sneeze propels cold and flu droplets up to six feet.

What’s more, they can live on surfaces from anywhere from two to eight hours, says Holdsworth. That means the droplets from a child’s sneeze can be on the remote control for the next five hours.

Sweat it out regularly

Don’t skip the workouts, especially during cold season.

Researchers recently examined exercise and its impact on immunity in mice. Some mice swam for 10 minutes a day, five days a week for three weeks. The others lived normal lives. The researchers gave some of the mice Staphylococcus aureus. It turns out that the exercising mice got sick less than sedentary mice. And, this effect also applies to humans.

“Performing routine exercise provides health benefits, such as preventing the occurrence of various infectious diseases in human[s],” Yoonkyung Park, associate professor in the biomedical science department at Chosun University in South Korea and one of the paper’s authors, tells TODAY via email.

But why? Exercise boosts the production of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial response that protects the body from invaders.

Get your vitamin D checked

For people who live in northern climates during the winter, it’s dark when people go into work and dark when they leave. Shorter days mean people experience less sun exposure, leading to waning vitamin D levels.

The problem with low levels of vitamin D? People with insufficient D are more likely to report an upper respiratory infection, cough, or cold, says Rosen.

Ask your doctor to check vitamin D levels; if they’re low, a supplement might bolster immunity.

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