When everyone around you is coughing and sneezing, you might be tempted to hunker down in your living room and hide until spring. Not to worry. By following a few easy tips, you can avoid the misery, fatigue, and mental haze of illness while staying healthy during cold and flu season.

1. Eat garlic

This pungent spice features an active compound called allicin, which is an effective antimicrobial agent, according to the American Chemical Society. Though raw garlic will certainly do the trick, at least one study has found garlic supplements also help ward off illness.

A 2001 study conducted by British researchers divided 146 volunteers into two groups. One set of volunteers took a placebo pill and a second group took one allicin-containing garlic supplement daily. Subjects who took garlic developed 63% fewer colds than the control group. Those who did catch colds regained health more quickly than those taking placebo pills.

2. Sanitize your surroundings

Swabbing your computer keyboard, along with any surrounding light switches and doorknobs, with disinfectant wipes can kill germs inadvertently left by colleagues, friends, or family members. An alternative to disinfectant wipes is dabbing a towel with isopropyl alcohol.

When everyone around you is sniffling and wiping their noses, bacteria-killing disinfectant can be your new best friend.

3. Exercise and meditate

That’s right, exercising helps, but even just sitting still and breathing can help fend off cold and flu systems.

A 2012 study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that adults who either exercised or participated in mindfulness training stayed healthier than subjects in a control group who neither exercised nor meditated.

To meditate, try carving out five or ten minutes in the morning and sitting in a quiet place. Focus on your breath and notice any thoughts that arise. If you find your mind wandering off, it’s okay. Just return your attention to your breath until the five minutes have passed.

Meanwhile, exercise improves your blood circulation, which pushes the cells and other particles of your immune system through your body, helping you stay healthy.

4. Take zinc

Several studies have shown that zinc, available in both syrups and lozenges, helps to keep people healthy during cold and flu season. A 2013 analysis of 18 medical studies found that taking zinc within 24 hours of feeling symptoms reduced both their severity and duration.

Taking the supplement may also help prevent colds. Most colds are caused by rhinovirus, and zinc works by thwarting its ability to reproduce and latch onto cell membranes, where it wreaks havoc.       

What are your top methods for avoiding colds?

Image by John Loo via Flickr

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