They press elevator buttons with their elbow
Azat Valeev/shutterstockEveryday mistakes can raise your risk of catching a cold—and that includes touching surfaces that many, many other people have touched. A University of Arizona study found that a virus spreads to over 50 percent of surfaces and other employees within hours when a single person in an office is infected. Partha Nandi, MD, a leading physician and author of Ask Dr. Nandi, advises avoiding touching common surfaces when possible. Even after you wash your hands, "use a paper towel to turn off the faucet," he says.
They drink enough water
2shrimpS/shutterstockGreat things happen to your body when you get enough water, one of which is flushing out germs that could make you sick. "Stay hydrated," advises Renee Miranda, MD, a family medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. How do you know how much to drink? "Take your weight in pounds, divide in half, and this is approximately how many ounces of water you need a day," she says. "For example, someone who is 150 pounds needs about 75 ounces of water a day." This is what happens when you get your full 8 glasses of water.
They don't skimp on sleep
Kalamurzing/shutterstockWhen you don't sleep enough, studies have shown your immune system suffers, and you're more prone to getting sick. "Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for the body," Dr. Miranda says. "When we sleep, the body gets a chance to recuperate, repair, and rejuvenate." She recommends getting at least six to eight hours of sleep nightly. This is what happens to your body when you don't get enough sleep.
They disinfect their phones and car keys
file404/shutterstockYour phone screen is way dirtier than you thought it was, because it picks up germs from whatever surfaces you lay it down on throughout the day. Plus, your hands can transfer germs to your phone as well as other objects you touch regularly but probably don't clean, like your car keys or computer keyboard. "When someone in the house is sick, I sanitize surfaces you don't usually think of: doorknobs, faucets, toilet flusher, light switches, phones, and remotes," says New Jersey mom Genna Banafato. Dr. Nandi advises using bleach-free disinfecting wipes to clean keyboards and other surfaces at the office. "Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down things that others use," he says. This is how many germs are lurking on your phone.
They get a flu shot
BlurryMe/shutterstockOut of the 12 things that need to be part of your DIY flu-fighting kit this winter, a flu shot is probably the most important. According to the CDC, the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated every year. "Of utmost importance, make sure you are up to date on all your vaccines," says Dr. Miranda. The flu shot isn't perfect (it doesn't protect against every strand of the virus), but it's your best bet.
They practice yoga or meditation
Dean Drobot/shutterstockDo you recognize these silent signs stress is making you sick? A review of decades of research found that stress does indeed have a negative impact on your immune system. "My husband rarely gets sick, and I think it's because he's rarely stressed," says Kacia Putnam of Morristown, New Jersey. To boost your immune system, "manage your stress," says Dr. Miranda. "Start with some form of breathing exercises or meditation practices daily to help reduce stress levels." Frank Lipman, MD, bestselling author and founder of Be Well and the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, also advises meditation, while Dr. Nandi suggests yoga to help manage stress levels.
They take zinc
Sayan Puangkham/shutterstockVitamin C preventing colds is a vitamin myth you have to stop believing—but what about zinc? Study results have been mixed, but a recent review did show that study participants who took zinc had shorter colds. "If you do take zinc, take it in the form of a syrup or lozenge, which allows it to stay in the throat where it can come into contact with a virus like a cold," says nutrition and fitness expert Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. "Zinc nasal sprays are not recommended as they may result in a loss of smell."
They get outside
Blazej Lyjak/shutterstockEven when it's cold out, there are snowy day activities the whole family can enjoy—and they may even prevent you from getting a winter bug. "Getting outside for a change of scenery, going for a walk on a trail, and breathing fresh air promotes a more active lifestyle, helps with circulation, provides stress relief, and improves well-being," Dr. Miranda says. "It's not uncommon that many of us are sitting in front of a computer screen, TV, or mobile phone for many hours of the day, and sitting for long periods of time promotes a sedentary lifestyle." Being outside can also ensure adequate levels of vitamin D, and air quality tends to be better in open air. One study even showed that being outdoors promoted "greater vitality." In warmer weather, Dr. Lipman also suggests bike riding and walking barefoot on the earth to connect with nature.
They drink hot water
Lesterman/shutterstockWhile any hydration is beneficial, there are surprising benefits of drinking hot water, including preventing you from getting sick. Some research shows it can improve mucus flow throughout nasal passages, helping to reduce sinus symptoms. In addition to hot tea, Dr. Nandi suggests, "Drink warm water with raw honey added to it, add some organic lemon juice to the warm water with honey, or drink warm water with cinnamon stick in it."
They flush out their nose
Image Point Fr/shutterstockHere's how to avoid a red, peeling nose when you've got the sniffles, but the best way is to avoid getting the sniffles in the first place. Studies have shown nasal irrigation to have some benefit in avoiding nasal infections. Because germs that cause the infections are airborne, "reducing exposure is as simple as rinsing the internal nostrils with pure saline wash," says medical herbalist Tami Bronstein, MNIMH, AHG, owner of The Medical Herbalist Apothecary. "Angle the spray nozzle into the inner tip of the nose—this is where the rhinovirus replicates, so you can interrupt its multiplication."