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Cold Comfort

The basic rules of cold avoidance are low-tech but effective; once you’re sick, though, there’s not much to be done but order in. We interviewed a few doctors, who reinforced the obvious.

Hug with your eyes. All viruses are spread through contact, even hugging and kissing during the holidays. If you have to sneeze and you don’t have a disposable tissue, sneeze into the crook of your elbow or your clothes instead of your palm; then you won’t be passing on the germs with your next handshake.

Crowds are a petri dish. Particularly if you’re indoors, touching the same things thousands of other people have touched (which is what happens in movie theaters, churches, stores, train stations, etc.).

Lather, lather, lather. Soap and water is the single most effective thing in preventing infection. Don’t use anti-bacterial soaps, which also kill good germs. Basic soap and water is fine; Purell is good for travel.

Nutrition counts. Boring but true. Fruits and vegetables have vitamins; vitamins keep you healthy. Also, drink water.

If You Get Sick
Placebos actually help. Although studies have yet to prove that echinacea, for example, has any real effect, there’s a psychological benefit to it; the brain believes you’re taking care of yourself, which makes you feel better.

Lean on the over-the-counter stuff. Use those time-release pills to relieve stuffed and throbbing noses and aching muscles, but be judicious with nasal sprays; if abused, they result in a useless, unpleasant rebound effect known as immovable congestion.

Raid your liquor cabinet. Tea with honey and brandy will raise your spirits and give you a feeling of well-being. Minors can have the virgin version: tea, lemon, honey.

Get steam into your life. Boil water in a pan on the stove, lean over it (not too close), and inhale. Store-bought steam inhalers work but need to be cleaned regularly to avoid fungal growth. Take hot showers and baths.

Realize that a cold is not the flu. Getting the flu shot is great for fighting off the flu. It won’t save you from (or cause) a cold.


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