Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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I've had more colds the past few months then I've had for the last five years combined. And it seems that all around me, people are sneezing, coughing and blowing their (very red) noses.
What gives? Just why are so many people sick?
It's not that everyone is walking outside with wet hair or getting chilled. Those are old wives tales, after all.
What is true: Colds are contagious. People tend to get more colds in the winter partly because the cold, nasty weather keeps them holed up indoors and in extremely close contact with another person's mucus.
Why break the cycle? You can spread cold germs without much effort at all.
- Don't wash your hands.
This is the most efficient way to spread colds. The CDC says that about 80 percent of infectious diseases are spread by touch. Cold germs are easily transmitted from your hands when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Likewise they're spread from person to person.
If you do wash your hands, a sure way to keep those germs spreading is to quickly rinse them under cool running water (no soap!) for about 5 seconds; anything more than 20 seconds will surely kill off the germs you want to preserve. And, if you really want to keep spreading the germs, beware of hand sanitizers, a popular substitute for soap and water.
- When you sneeze or cough, don't cover your nose and mouth.
Why use the crook of your elbow or a tissue? That's just too much extra work. Better to spread the wealth.
- Don't disinfect.
Leave those poor cold germs alone. Let them live on the surfaces they truly love. Better to ignore areas like tabletops, doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, faucets and toys and go relax instead. A disinfecting spray or wipe is evil as far as the germs are concerned.
- Be thrifty.
There's no reason to make sure everyone in your house uses their own towel or cup in the bathroom if you're sick. Why would you do that? That just makes extra laundry and garbage and is not in the true spirit of sharing.
- Ignore your health.
If you eat healthy foods, get enough sleep and reduce stress as much as possible, that might only help prevent colds. And then the germs won't get their chance to multiply and you won't get your chance to suffer along with everyone else. While you're at it, make sure to stay away from protein like fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils and tofu. Why? These foods contain valuable infection-fighting minerals like magnesium and zinc, things your body needs these to maintain its health and for optimal physiological function.
And forget about trying things like zinc. Studies show that it can be effective if taken within 24 hours of the onset of your symptoms. Then you might have to keep the cold all to yourself.