Go for a fist bump
Nong Mars/ShutterstockThe next time someone approaches you with palm outstretched, try a fist bump or air kiss instead. "Shaking hands may be a social expectation, but it is also an excellent method of transferring germs from one person to another," says J.D. Zipkin, MD, at GoHealth Urgent Care. That's why Harvard Medical School alternately suggests a fist bump, which in a study transferred 90 percent fewer germs than a handshake."While avoiding a handshake is not always socially feasible, hand-washing afterward will kill any germs you picked up," Dr. Zipkin says. In addition, if you can't avoid the handshake, don't touch your face afterward to prevent germs on your hands from migrating to your nose and mouth. Find out the clear signs a cold is coming.
Stop biting your nails
Pablo del Rio Sotelo/ShutterstockStudies have shown that biting your nails is another great way to transfer germs on your hands to your mouth. "Nail-biting can be a difficult habit to break, but doing so comes with several additional benefits including reducing the frequency that you bring your hands to your face, especially the entry points for illness such as the nose and mouth," Dr. Zipkin says. "This reduces the risk of getting sick." Learn the other common habits that are making you sick.
Blast your sponges in the microwave
Jim Barber/ShutterstockKeep your kitchen sponge germ-free by nuking it on full power for two minutes daily. This kills 99 percent of micro-organisms, according to a University of Florida study. "People often put their sponges and scrubbers in the dishwasher, but if they really want to decontaminate them and not just clean them, they should use the microwave," says the study author, UF professor Gabriel Britton, Ph.D. "The microwave is a very powerful and an inexpensive tool for sterilization." But, a warning: Do this only with a damp sponge or cloth—otherwise it's a fire risk. Here are more things in your house that could be making you sick.
Take a walk
Andrey Arkusha/ShutterstockOne study showed that post-menopausal women who took regular, moderate exercise—brisk walking for 45 minutes, five times a week—had up to a three-fold reduction in the number of colds they suffered compared with women who didn't exercise. "Moderate exercise, 30 to 60 minutes per day, seems to boost the production of white blood cells, which may enhance the immune response," says fitness expert and registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet. But, "very intense exercise, such as running a marathon, may weaken the immune system and increase the risk of getting sick." Try these other simple habits to naturally boost your immune system.
Clean surfaces at work, as well as at home
Georgii Shipin/ShutterstockThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regularly cleaning frequently touched objects and surfaces to prevent the spread of germs like the flu. Cleaning means removing germs; you can also use a disinfectant to actually kill the germs that are left. "Common shared surfaces such as doorknobs, TV remotes, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and light switches should be wiped down with wipes that can kill germs," Dr. Zipkin says. Other culprits include telephones, computer keyboards, kitchen surfaces, and cleaning cloths. And don't forget your cell phone: This disgusting phone habit could make you sick, and you do it every day.
Get your zzz's
Andrey_Popov/ShutterstockGetting less than the National Sleep Foundation's recommended seven to nine hours of sleep daily can make your body more vulnerable to illness. "Sleep is an important part of overall health, and insufficient quality sleep can increase susceptibility to infection," Dr. Zipkin says. "Studies have shown that the body does not create as many immune cells and proteins with decreased sleep." These are more ways you're unknowingly sabotaging your immune system.
Fight it with garlic
liza1979/ShutterstockGarlic doesn't just ward off vampires—it can help keep sickness at bay, too. In a study at the Garlic Centre in East Sussex, half of the participants were given a garlic supplement daily and the other half a placebo. During 90 days of winter, those taking garlic had a total of 24 colds, compared with 65 among those on placebo. People taking garlic supplements who did catch a cold also had a shorter duration. "Compounds found in garlic have been found to boost the response of white blood cells in the body to fight against viruses," Palinski-Wade says. It can't hurt to try adding more to your diet. Eat these other foods to prevent colds and flu.
Geza Farkas/Shutterstock"It is estimated that 80 percent of the immune system is based in the gut, so having a variety of healthy gut bacteria may enhance the immune system, allowing you to better fight off common infections and illnesses," Palinski-Wade says. "Taking a probiotic that provides a variety of healthy bacteria strains may aid the immune system." Research supports this—in one small study, the number of participants who didn't get sick when taking probiotics was more than double those who took a placebo. Probiotics are one of the things that need to be part of your DIY flu-fighting kit.
Get your fiber
Y Photo Studio/ShutterstockIn addition to probiotics, consuming prebiotics, which feeds your gut bacteria, could give your immune system a boost, according to research. "Aim for a minimum of 30 grams of fiber every day from whole foods," Palinski-Wade says. "Fiber-rich foods provide a source of prebiotics, or food, to the bacteria in your gut, which may help to increase the variety of healthy bacteria strains, supporting a healthy immune system." On the other hand, these foods can make your cold or flu worse.
Load up on fruits and veggies
monticello/ShutterstockBrightly colored fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that may help keep your immune system strong. One study showed that participants who consumed flavonoids, components in plants including apple and berries that act as antioxidants, were 33 percent more protected from colds. "Antioxidants such as vitamin C can help to fight against infections and speed recovery time," Palinski-Wade says. "Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables each day can ensure your diet is rich in antioxidants." Also, try these other immunity-boosting foods you need to fight off the flu.