Simple steps to aid in avoiding colds this autumn

The summer holiday is almost a distant memory and life is back in full swing. As you enjoy the autumn breeze, now is a good time to think about how you can try to avoid coughs and colds this season.

Most people contract two or three colds per year. You probably remember those first signs whenever you’ve caught a cold; a sore throat, and a runny nose. There may be a tickle in the back of your throat - or, you may be feeling low in energy. Generally you’ll recover within seven to ten days. Yet although cold symptoms may not be as long and severe as those associated with the flu, they can still leave you feeling miserable and in pain.

Luckily, these simple steps could increase your changes of keeping chesty coughs and colds at bay.

Wash your hands

No, it’s not an old wives’ tale. Washing your hands often with soap can help you avoid catching coughs and colds.

A large study published in British medical journal The Lancet, followed 16,908 people over three winters. Nearly half of these people were given information on hand washing and the viruses that cause cold. The other half weren’t. Each month, the researchers asked them if they had a sore throat, cough, runny nose, fever, headache, muscle ache, or were very tired.

This British research team found that significantly fewer people had cold symptoms when they were reminded to wash their hands frequently.

You might already be washing your hands regularly. But, there may be times when you don’t have soap or water handy. For those moments this could be another option:

Use alcohol-based hand rub

Using alcohol-based hand rub could help you to avoid cold and related aches and pains, according to a German study.

These researchers followed 129 people to study whether hand disinfectant can prevent colds and related symptoms. They asked half of these people to use alcohol-based hand rub before eating. Plus, after blowing their nose, using the toilet, and contact with a sick person.

During one year, the researchers recorded if they had any signs of a cold. They found that significantly fewer people said they had a cold, cough, or fever when they had used the alcohol-based hand rub. 

You might have seen alcohol-based hand rubs in the form of a gel, foam or liquid. When you rub it on your hands, it helps to destroy those cold viruses on your skin.  But, alcohol-based rubs can only work when your hands are visibly clean. Dirt and other residues prevent hand rub from reaching and killing those viruses on your skin.

Get enough sleep

A good night’s sleep not only makes you feel better – it may also protect you from getting a cold.

A recent study published in Sleep followed 164 volunteers to investigate whether sleep affects your chance of getting a cold. First, the researchers measured the sleep habits of these volunteers. After exposing them to a common cold virus, they measured whether this virus was actually present in their nasal mucus.

The researchers found that people who slept less than five hours a night were 4.5 times more likely to catch a cold, than those who get more than seven hours of sleep.

Scientists are still working to understand why a good night’s sleep may protect you from a cold. But, they do have a hunch. There is some evidence that it is related to the activity of your immune system while you are asleep.


Doing exercise could potentially prevent a cold, according to an American study. This study investigated whether exercise could prevent acute respiratory infections such as a cold. Forty-seven people followed an 8-week exercise program. Fifty-one people didn’t. The weekly exercise sessions consisted of moderately intensive exercise using stationary bicycles and treadmills. Half of the participants also exercised at home every day.

The research team reported that significantly fewer people, who did exercise came down with a cold than the people who didn’t.


Remember: practicing good hand hygiene, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are simple yet effective strategies that can help you to avoid a dreaded cold this season.



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