6 ways to avoid catching the cold

The temperature is dropping and the days are getting shorter. As we head into winter we’re all at a greater risk of catching colds or the flu, but there’s lots you can do to boost your immune system to help avoid the misery.

As you sit on your morning commute you’ve probably become increasingly aware of the cacophony of sniffs, coughs and sneezes. There’s no avoiding it, winter is coming and with winter comes a higher risk of colds and flu.

The reason for this seasonal increase has never been categorically proven, but there are a number of scientifically verified ways to improve your immunity that could help you avoid the dreaded lurgy. I’m going to let you in on the secret.

1. Know what to eat and drink

We’ve all been told about increasing our vitamin C intake to boost our immune system, but the truth is there’s more to it than just nibbling on an orange or two. Your immune system relies on vitamins A, C and E to rebuild and repair it. Eating a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables should give you a good balance.

Water also plays a very important part in immune function, particularly in flushing out toxins. You can find out more about how food can help support a healthy immune system here

2. Keep a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)

Sustaining a positive mental attitude (PMA) won’t only stand you in good stead at work (and in life in general); it can also help to prevent illness. This is because we release different hormones depending on our outlook. Thinking positively releases the immune boosting hormone DHEA, while thinking negatively releases the immune suppressing hormone cortisol. So staying positive can help you stay healthy.

3. Vary your workouts

Exercise is vital in boosting your immune system because it stimulates the production of white blood cells, the cells that attack bacteria; and it also improves the circulation of your immune cells. However, it is important to vary your routine. Exercising at a high intensity every time can lead to elevated cortisol and adrenaline levels which is a sign that you are under too much stress. This can then lead to a weakened immune system and poor recovery.

Try to vary your workout routines with a mixture of high and moderate intensity exercise. You could focus on cardio one day, resistance another and flexibility the next. Here's a great 7-day workout routine for good overall fitness and health. 

4. Give yourself a break and don’t over do it!

Equally as important as getting enough exercise is having a break from it. Give yourself at least two days a week rest from strenuous exercise to allow recovery and help avoid the effects of stress on your immune system. You should also avoid high intensity exercise when you’re ill and stop exercise entirely if you have a fever, fatigue or other acute symptoms.

Sleep also plays an important part in avoiding illness and repairing your body during illness. Sleep is an essential tool in recovering from the day’s wear and tear. You should aim for seven hours of sleep a night, and more if you have an infection.

5. Put. The cigarette. Down.

It’s no surprise that cigarettes and their smoky relatives are bad for you, but it’s less well known that when it comes to catching colds, they are a major contributor. Smoking increases the production of a number of stress hormones that suppress immune function. It also increases the body’s exposure to harmful ‘free radicals’ that counter our antioxidant defences, thus increasing the likelihood of illness.

So speak to your GP about the best ways for you to quit smoking.

6. Stay clean

Lastly, the best way to avoid getting sick is to avoid the germs that cause sickness. Make sure you wash your hands regularly and effectively, especially after travelling on public transport, after going to the bathroom and before eating food. This will not only help you avoid illness, but it will help prevent the spread of illness for everyone else too.

Last updated Friday 28 April 2023

First published on Tuesday 19 November 2019