Getting a flu vaccination before flu season protects only against the pathogens of influenza. Unfortunately, there is no vaccination for the common cold. The best method of prevention is maintaining a healthy immune system.
According to Professor Ron Eccles, when it comes to the elderly, “The production of antibodies to the viruses that they have encountered over the years increases.” That means that once you have built up your immunity to some strains of cold viruses, you might become infected with the same strain again, but your immune system handles the encounter so quickly that you never feel the symptoms.
Cold viruses enter our bodies in two ways:11,12,13
Through the tiny droplets that are aerosolized by coughs or sneezes. After a sneeze, the droplets can carry germs through the air that others can inhale. Fortunately, these droplets gradually fall out of the air.
Through direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces. This is believed to be the more common way we catch a cold.
11 Tyrrell, D, Fielder, M, Cold Wars: The Fight Against the Common Cold, Oxford University Press, 2002.
12 Treanor, J, Hayden, F, Infectious Diseases of the lungs—Viral Infections, Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, 3rd Edition, W. B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, 1988; 1: 932.
13 Turner, RB, Hendley, JO, virucidal hand treatments for prevention of rhinovirus infection, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 2005; 56, 805-807.
Not getting enough sleep decreases your immune system’s ability to fight off a cold.14 Try to get a consistent six to eight hours of sleep every night.
14 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Cold weather doesn’t give you a cold.15 However, spending more time indoors causes you to breathe more germ-infested air, which likely contributes to why you get sick more often in the winter.
15 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Unless you’re diagnosed with a bacterial infection, avoid asking a doctor to prescribe antibiotics for cold or flu symptoms. Antibiotics are ineffective in treating viral infections such as cold and flu viruses. Also, the overuse of antibiotics can give rise to antibiotic-resistant germs.
Keep germs at bay by washing your hands often. (Here’s where a bottle of hand sanitizer can come in real handy when regular soap and water aren’t available or convenient.) And be sure to drink lots of water to combat the super-dry, pressurized air.