Life & Beauty Weekly: Health

By Valerie Kalfrin for Life & Beauty Weekly

Ah, the sounds of winter: carols, tinkling bells, sneezes and hacking coughs. As we prepare for a seemingly inevitable battle against colds and the flu, it’s natural to wonder if there will ever be a way to prevent illness in the first place. Although you might not make it to spring without a sniffle, there are ways to avoid getting sick—and to feel better if you do fall ill. Here’s how:

Sneeze Like a Vampire
There are over 200 viruses that can cause the common cold, says herbalist Klaus Ferlow, founder and co-owner of Ferlow Botanicals in Vancouver. “Cold germs (viruses) are highly contagious and are often caught by a sneeze, cough or kiss,” says Ferlow. “You can also catch a cold from yourself: When your immune system weakens from stress and poor diet, viruses can take hold.” To reduce the spread of infectious cold germs, avoid sneezing into your palm and instead, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow (as if you were Dracula hiding behind his cape). If you do sneeze into your hands, prevent a cold by washing them immediately.

Scrub up
Ferlow suggests washing your hands frequently throughout the day. “Wash your hands with soap many times each day, because you’re touching so many things with your hands each day and picking up viruses,” he says. “Washing your hands with warm or hot water works to prevent viruses entering into your system.” Make sure you wash your hands before you eat, as well as after using the bathroom or touching surfaces. Rub briskly for about 20 to 30 seconds (or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”).

Use Sanitizer Sparingly
Although hand sanitizer is convenient, it may not be the best way to fight colds, says Ferlow. “Most sanitizers contain harmful chemicals and ethyl alcohol that dry out your skin,” Ferlow says. “They do not kill protozoa (which cause serious intestinal illnesses), the tetanus germ, botulism germ or anthrax. Moreover, alcohol-based sanitizers also will not kill norovirus or picornavirus.”

Drink up
If you do get sidelined by a cold, drink plenty of fluids to replenish your system. “Dehydration will inhibit the immune system,” says Ferlow. Replenish your liquids with chlorine-free water and foods like chicken soup, which some studies show helps people feel better faster. “Western scientists discovered that an amino acid is released from the chicken during cooking,” says Ferlow. “But, if you ask me, one of the most effective fighters against colds and flu is Elderberry juice enhanced with lemon juice and honey. That always worked for me as a child and even now.”

Be Wary of Supplements
Zinc, echinacea and vitamin C all have followers who swear by their healing properties—but science may prove them wrong. Two studies conducted by the same researcher who found zinc shortened the course of the common cold later found it had no benefit.

“I am not a big fan of vitamins except vitamin C in the fall and winter time,” says Ferlow. “Maintain a balanced diet with certified organic vegetables, fruits and nuts and that will strengthen your immune system.” Ferlow also suggests eating garlic and honey during the onset of a cold because they warm the body and act as antiviral and antibacterial agents.

Get Some Z’s
If you do catch a cold, Ferlow says it is very important to relax and get proper sleep. “Stay at home for a few days so you will not infect others,” says Ferlow. “If you don’t, you will suffer and the recovery will be so much longer.”

Valerie Kalfrin is a writer in the Tampa, Fla., area. Her work has appeared in The Tampa Tribune, Ladies’ Home Journal, and

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