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Sick of Being Sick?

4. Take the right vitamin

Research has confirmed megadoses of vitamin C won't do much to prevent colds. But the next one in the alphabet may. Research from the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and Harvard showed that people with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D had significantly more respiratory infections than those with the highest. If you don't have enough D, you produce lower amounts of the proteins that kill bacteria and viruses, explains Adit Ginde, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of surgery. To get levels up to cold-fighting strength, most people need at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day.

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.

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