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Sick of Being Sick?

5. Keep your toes warm

Give this one to Mom: Catching a chill can jump-start a cold, say researchers at Cardiff University's Common Cold Centre. Plunging the feet of volunteers into cold water triggered the onset of cold symptoms in 10 percent of subjects, while there were far fewer colds in the "toasty toes" control group. Cooling the feet, explain researchers, causes constriction of the blood vessels in upper airways, which may reduce defenses against vexing viruses.

6. Move!

Women who get regular aerobic workouts may be able to lower their risk of colds compared with those who have less intense regimens. In a study at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, moderate-intensity exercisers had about half as many colds over the course of a year as those who'd done gentler stretching routines. Other research has suggested exercise increases immune cells in the blood and saliva, says study author Jessica Chubak, Ph.D. Your Rx: a moderately intense activity (brisk walking, cycling, water aerobics), 45 minutes a day, five days a week.

7. Scrub, scrub, scrub

When hospitals step up their hand-washing programs, infection rates drop significantly. The same would be true in your home. And you don't need special products: A study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that people who use antimicrobial cleansers have no fewer respiratory illnesses than those who wash with regular soap. Especially important during cold and flu season: Scrub your hands as soon as you come inside, and use a hand-sanitizing gel if you can't get to a sink.

8. Pop in some earbuds

Music seems to raise levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA), one of the body's primary defenses against germs. When researchers from Australia's Monash University subjected students to the tension-filled task of preparing an oral presentation, participants who worked to the soothing strains of Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major" not only enjoyed a drop in stress symptoms, but also had a surge in IgA. Singing in a choir has a similar immune-boosting effect, German research has found — all of which just might translate to fewer colds.

9. Make room for mushrooms

Research from Tufts University suggests that ordinary white button mushrooms can help ward off illness. In the study, the natural killer cells of mice that were fed these mushrooms became more active. The human "dose": two cups of raw or cooked mushrooms a day, though smaller amounts might help, too.

10. Starve a cold, feed a friendship

It may seem counterintuitive, but an active social life can help you stay healthy this winter. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University exposed a group of 276 people to cold viruses, then waited to see who succumbed. The least likely to get sick: those who were connected to six or more social networks — book or bridge clubs, faith communities, even a work life including socializing. Participants with three or fewer such relationships were four times more likely to catch the bug.

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