DEAR PHARMACIST

Ways to avoid getting a cold


Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 6:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 6:20 p.m.

Q: What are some suggestions to avoid catching cold this season?

— R. P. Albany, N.Y.

A: The common cold has been around for eons, even though it has morphed a bazillion times. It's brilliant at outsmarting us; this is why we don't have an effective remedy to cure or prevent it.

Health experts will tell you the obvious: Get enough rest, allow your body to sleep more if it wants to, drink plenty of water, take cough drops, take vitamin C, sip chicken broth and keep a trash bin near the bed in case you have to throw up in a hurry.

These are all great suggestions, especially the last one, but if you've been there and got the T-shirt, you know this is not nearly enough.

Job one is to wash your hands frequently. Keep them away from your face, and don't use them to cover a sneeze or a cough. This is so simple, and yet whenever I people watch, I notice everyone fidgeting with their face and heaven forbid picking stuff out of their teeth or nose. Yeah, seriously, that was going on in the car next to me yesterday. Instead, use a tissue and then throw it out. Don't opt for a hanky; it's kind of gross to reuse those. No tissue? Use the crook of your elbow to cover your nose or mouth.

Vitamin C: I mentioned this earlier because it is used commonly to prevent colds and alleviate certain symptoms, particularly those involving mucous membranes. It improves your white blood cell count and assists your body in making glutathione, a very strong antioxidant that escorts poisons out of your body.

Probiotics: The only way for you to have a strong immune system is to build one. Good clinical science proves a healthy gut barrier protects your body from pathogenic invaders and revs immune function.

Mushrooms, the medicinal sort: Look for maitake extract at the health food store, or beta-glucan. These mushrooms provide compounds to your body that fight germs. Their incredible immune-boosting effects are well-documented in medical research.

Vitamin A: It keeps your mucous membranes wet and strong, which helps soothe your nose, mouth and throat. When the delicate membranes are functioning properly, they will trap particles and pathogens before they enter the body.

Vitamin D: It's great for most immune disorders because it enhances your T cells and helps you keep all sorts of bugs at bay. Usually, doctors suggest about 5,000-10,000 IU during the winter months, but it depends on your serum levels. Ask your physician.

Zinc: This prostate-loving mineral also reduces the duration of illness and the severity of symptoms. The trick is to start zinc at the very first sneeze. Luckily for you, zinc is found in nuts, dark chocolate and seafood, so you can eat your way to better levels.

Certain spices like thyme, garlic and saffron: These possess anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral compounds making them strong medicine in my kitchen.

For more information, go to DearPharmacist.com.

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