23 Daily Habits of People Who Never Get Sick
Why do some people seem immune to colds and flu? Follow these tips from real people and experts, and you can learn how to avoid them too.
They press elevator buttons with their elbow
Everyday 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. These are the nine signs a cold is coming–and how you can stop it.
They drink enough water
Great 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
When 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. These 32 everyday mistakes raise your risk of catching a cold.
They disinfect their phones and car keys
Your 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
A flu shot is probably the most important barrier between you and the flu. 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
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. These are the ways stress can make you sick.
They take zinc
Vitamin 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
Even 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. These are the nine ways people make their cold or flu worse.
They drink hot water
While 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
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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.”
They try essential oils
“When I feel like I am coming down with something, I put a couple of drops of essential oils on my body and start to feel better within a couple of hours,” says Carla Tappen of Morristown, New Jersey. “My favorites to boost the immune system is oregano and Thieves. I put them on the soles of my feet and on the spine.” Dr. Nandi also recommends patients to “embrace natural oils” to avoid illness. Animal research has shown that oregano, among other oils, is an effective alternative to antibiotics in reducing sickness. Studies in humans have also shown the germ-killing power of these natural treatments. Don’t miss the 10 best essential oils for cold and flu.
They get it on
“If the experience is enjoyable and provides stress relief, then yes, sex can boost your immune system,” Dr. Miranda says. “if sex is something that you find relieves stress, then stress levels will be decreased and your immunity may be increased as a result.” One study found that participants who had more sex had higher levels of an antibody in saliva that helps fight germs.
They aren’t germaphobes
If you are one of those people who wonder if bar soap really holds onto germs, you might actually be more likely to get sick—because you’re too concerned with cleaning. “Of course, wash your hands after you use the restroom, but don’t go crazy sanitizing everything,” says Katie Rey of Syracuse, New York, who says she rarely gets sick. “I think my parents let me get dirty and it built up my immunity!” Dr. Lipman says there is some scientific basis for this (known as the hygeine hypothesis). “Good bugs are essential for our health and immunity as they keep our microbiome and our immune system functioning optimally,” he says. “Exposure to all kinds of bacteria is how we build an immune system that is balanced and strong.” Overuse of products that kill both good and bad bugs, including antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers and antibiotics, can have negative effects on our health as they limit the bacteria we are exposed to and kill off the good bugs that are protecting us, he says.
They hit the gym
It’s no surprise that exercise is good for you, but it may also help the way your body responds to infection. Rey, a frequent runner, says regular exercise is one reason she never gets sick. “Regular, moderate exercise may improve the immune system and aid in the prevention of illness,” Palinski-Wade says. “One small study found that regular exercise prevented catching the common cold when compared to individuals who do not exercise regularly.” Another study in rodents found those who had remained sedentary were more likely to become ill when infected with staph germs than those who had exercised. Don’t miss these 15 surprising ways to prevent a cold.
They change their hand towels
How often should you really be washing your bath towels? Every two to three days. But, hand towels are even more prone to germs because multiple people use them, and they might not be properly cleaning their hands—so you might want to change them every day. One study found coliform bacteria on 89 percent of kitchen towels tested, and E. coli in 26 percent—which was correlated with the frequency of washing. In addition, “viral transmission can happen fairly quickly within the home,” says Dr. Nandi. If a family member is sick, changing sheets and pillowcases can also help reduce the likelihood of transmission.
They make friends with kale
Among the fall superfoods you should add to your diet are tons of veggies, which have immune-boosting powers. Tappen credits her immunity to sickness to her vegetarian diet. “Vegetables are packed full of antioxidants, which fight against free radicals that can damage cells and weaken the immune system,” Palinski-Wade says. “Dark green, leafy vegetables are packed full of vitamin C, which may help to reduce the duration of a cold slightly. Spinach and mushrooms are also a good source of zinc, which has also been shown to reduce the duration of the common cold.” Dr. Miranda also advises eating less processed foods in favor of a more plant-based diet.
They go for green tea
Among the many health benefits of green tea may be a boost to the immune system. “Green tea seems to have an impact on reducing the instance of catching a virus as well as reducing the duration of a virus,” Palinski-Wade says. “The antioxidants in green tea have been found to block the various phases of infection of healthy cells, weakening a virus and reducing the duration of cold-like symptoms and fever.” This may be because green tea’s antioxidant polyphenols could affect regulatory T-cells that play a key role in immune function, according to research from Oregon State University. Here are 8 more things to eat when you have a cold.
They get together with friends
Laughter really is the best medicine, and sharing happy times with loved ones can also increase the likelihood you’ll stay healthy, according to research. “The human body adapts to whatever environment you expose it to, so if you expose it to an environment with a lot of negative stressors like negative thoughts and people who are not supportive of you, the body undergoes more stress and this has a negative impact on your overall health,” Dr. Miranda says. “When you expose the body to a positive environment, supportive friends and family, and work on stress relief with laughing therapy, the body experiences less stress and this has positive health benefits.” A review of research found that socializing can even help you live healthier and longer.
They eat their yogurt
It’s time to get the facts about probiotics, which have tons of health benefits including preventing you from getting sick. Found in yogurt, fermented foods, some cheeses, and supplements, they regulate the good and bad bacteria in your gut microbiome. Banafato says supplementing with a quality probiotic helps her stay healthy. “The majority of our immune system is based in our gut,” says Palinski-Wade. “A healthy gut reduces inflammation in the body, allowing it to better fight off potential infections.” One study showed supplementation with probiotics to reduce upper respiratory tract infections. A new probiotic is designed specifically to ward off colds—LoveBug Cold Suck Probiotics Supplements, with five billion live cultures, plus vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea. On the other hand, these seven foods can make your cold or flu worse.
One of many old-time home remedies we need to bring back may be gargling daily. One study from Japan, where the practice is common, found that gargling with water was effective in preventing upper respiratory tract infections. Although critics say the study’s results need to be replicated before saying for sure whether it works, it certainly can’t hurt—and it’s free!
They’ve discovered apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar benefits your health in many ways, including possibly heading off nasal and throat infections. Its power may lie in acetic acid, which prevents germ growth. Plus, the potassium found in it may help with thinning mucus. Although scientific evidence on this ancient remedy is lacking, it can’t hurt when taken safely. “If you do consider adding ACV to your diet, make sure to dilute it—one tablespoon to eight ounces of water,” Palinski-Wade says. “Speak with your healthcare professional before gargling with ACV since the acidity may damage teeth enamel and the esophagus if not diluted enough.” Or, add it to salad dressing and other recipes. These are the 11 bad habits doctors say ruin your health.
They indulge in wine
“Light to moderate consumption of polyphenol-rich alcoholic beverages like wine may improve immune functioning and decrease inflammation, which may help to lessen the chance of illness,” Palinski-Wade says. “This would be one four-ounce glass per day for women, and two glasses per day for men.” A University of Texas study was the first to show the positive effect of resveratrol (a polyphenol in wine) on the immune system.
They think positive
You can develop a positive attitude in six easy steps, and your immune system will thank you for it. “Our mental health has a huge impact on our physical health,” Dr. Lipman says. “A great example of this is stress as we can often see and feel how dramatically it can affect our mental and physical state.” A negative outlook, therefore, can weaken your body’s defenses against illness. “Mind and body are not separate, and having a good attitude can make all the difference in the world with maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Miranda says. Studies have shown that optimism can positively impact everything from disease outcomes to longevity. Don’t miss the 11 things doctors do to treat the flu.