Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

8 Natural Tips to Help Prevent a Cold

There are no known cures for colds and flu, so cold and flu prevention should be your goal. A proactive approach to warding off colds and flu is apt to make your whole life healthier. The most effective way for preventing the flu is to get the flu shot. It works better than anything else. But there are other strategies you can employ as well. Here are 8 tips you can use to help prevent colds and the flu naturally:

#1 Wash Your Hands

Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

H1N1 Swine Flu Holiday Party Etiquette

Holiday season is upon us again. As you send out the invitations and plan the menu for your holiday party, remember that there is one guest you definitely do not want on your guest list: swine flu. You might have considered canceling your holiday festivities out of fear of H1N1. However, our flu etiquette experts say that if you're still going about your regular business -- going to work, movies, and religious services -- there is no reason to cancel your holiday plans. "It's not as though...

Read the H1N1 Swine Flu Holiday Party Etiquette article > >

Most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact. Someone who has the flu sneezes onto his or her hand and then touches the telephone, the keyboard, a kitchen glass. The germs can live for hours only to be picked up by the next person who touches the same object. So wash your hands often. If you can't get to a sink, rub an alcohol-based hand sanitizer onto your hands.

#2 Don't Cover Your Sneezes and Coughs With Your Hands

Because germs and viruses cling to your bare hands, muffling coughs and sneezes with your hands often results in passing along your germs to others. When you feel a sneeze or cough coming, use a tissue, then throw it away immediately. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.

#3 Don't Touch Your Face

Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Touching their faces is the major way children catch colds and a key way they pass colds on to their parents.

#4 Do Aerobic Exercise Regularly

Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart to pump larger quantities of blood; makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood; and makes you sweat once your body heats up. These exercises help increase the body's natural virus-killing cells.

#5 Eat Foods Containing Phytochemicals

"Phyto" means plants, and the natural chemicals in plants give the vitamins in food a supercharged boost. So put away the vitamin pill, and eat dark green, red, and yellow vegetables and fruits.

#6 Don't Smoke

Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones.

Even being around smoke profoundly zaps the immune system. Smoke dries out your nasal passages and paralyzes cilia. These are the delicate hairs that line the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs, and with their wavy movements, sweep cold and flu viruses out of the nasal passages. Experts contend that one cigarette can paralyze cilia for as long as 30 to 40 minutes.

#7 Cut Alcohol Consumption

Heavy alcohol use suppresses the immune system in a variety of ways. Heavier drinkers are more prone to initial infections as well as secondary complications. Alcohol also dehydrates the body -- it actually causes more fluid loss from your system than it puts in.

#8 Relax 

If you can teach yourself to relax, you may be able to rev up your immune system. There's evidence that when you put your relaxation skills into action, your interleukins -- leaders in the immune system response against cold and flu viruses -- increase in the bloodstream. Train yourself to picture an image you find pleasant or calming. Do this 30 minutes a day for several months. Keep in mind, relaxation is a learnable skill, but it is not doing nothing. People who try to relax, but are in fact bored, show no changes in blood chemicals.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 16, 2014

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
 
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
 
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
Slideshow
blowing nose
VIDEO
 
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Health Check
Boy holding ear
Article
 
woman receiving vaccine shot
Article
Bacterial or Viral Infection
Video
 
How To Calm Your Cough
Quiz
Sore Throat
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections