Imagine you’re sipping a warm mug of peppermint hot chocolate, buried under a sea of wrapping paper and gift boxes. It’s A Wonderful Life is playing in the background, and as you think about the holiday traditions you’ll be enjoying over the next few weeks, you feel grateful — joyful, even — and then it happens: One sneeze turns into two, chills are running down your spine, you’re freezing, then sweating. You have to figure out how to avoid a cold when you feel one coming on ASAP, because all these symptoms can add up to one nasty bug, and if you don’t do some damage control soon, you’ll be spending the holidays dodging loved ones, and missing out on your favorite traditions, all because of a few annoying germs. Bah, humbug.
Growing up, I was always sick for Christmas, and in 2017, my husband and I gave one another the flu twice between mid-December and New Year’s Day. It definitely doesn’t help that the holiday season overlaps with cold and flu season, because think about it: You’re coming in contact with so many people all at once. Not to mention, there’s a really good chance the hands that embrace you, or shake yours, are carrying some questionable germs, too.
And look, I realize that that might've come off a little judgmental, but listen to this: An app called SingleCare, which lets you directly compare prices of different health services and prescriptions, recently polled 1,000 people about their germ-related pet peeves, and found that a cringeworthy 20 percent of respondents said they don't wash their hands after blowing their nose. Kind of gross, right? Well, it gets worse: Ten percent of those surveyed also said they regularly sneeze into their hands and then continue to eat a meal without taking a moment to wash up or grab some Purell. That’s right, friends: Not only could your loved ones be snotting all over their hands, they might also be spreading the stuff over the food they eat, and the food they share with you.
So, hypothetically speaking, you could be as healthy as a horse, come into contact with a germy friend or family member, and end up sick as a dog by Christmas. It’s neither fair, nor is it necessarily under your control. According to Dr. Nodar Janas, medical director at Upper East Side Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Manhattan, when you’re exposed to a lot of people, and therefore a lot of germs, it’s extremely difficult to try and protect yourself from airborne illnesses. However, Dr. Janas tells Elite Daily that you can prevent others from catching whatever you’ve contracted, all while treating your symptoms to nip a potentially nasty cold in the bud ASAP.
How do you go about doing that? Well, for starters, you have to treat your mild symptoms as though you're experiencing a full-blown cold. Continue doing the basics — wash your hands with soap and water before and after you eat and when you go to the bathroom, try not to touch your face too much, stay hydrated, get enough sleep — but take your precautions up a notch by also nursing your symptoms as they come along.
While there are plenty of over-the-counter meds to choose from based on the symptoms you’re experiencing, Dr. Kristin Dean, associate medical director at Doctor On Demand, tells Elite Daily that, in most cases, OTC products haven’t exactly been proven to be super effective in preventing a full-blown cold. So, rather than spending your money on expensive products with no guarantee of relief, Dr. Dean highly suggests listening to good ol’ mom and dad’s advice by building up your immunity through simple strategies like proper hydration, and making sure you're getting plenty of rest.
“Taking care of yourself both when you are feeling healthy as well as when you are feeling sick is the best way to shorten a cold's duration,” Dr. Dean explains. “Symptomatic treatments can help you to feel better temporarily as your body's immune system works to fight the cold.”
Really, the bottom line is that a cold is a sign your body’s been a) infected by germs (obviously), and b) is feeling run-down. So the second you catch on to the fact that your body’s starting to feel a little under the weather, Dr. Raj Gupta, wellness expert and founder of Soul Focus Wellness Center, tells Elite Daily the best thing you can do do is “rest and take it slow.” In other words, go to bed early, take your vitamins, don’t push your body too hard at the gym, and if you start feeling congested, drink tea that's rich in antioxidants, and turn your shower into a steam room to help loosen mucus.
As for what you eat during this time, don't forget to sneak some cold-friendly foods into your mix of holiday indulgences. Jessica Rosen, certified holistic health coach and co-founder of Raw Generation, suggests adding ingredients like garlic and ginger into your diet whenever you can for their anti-inflammatory properties. Green juice can also help with a cold, Rosen tells Elite Daily, as it can "balance acidity" and "create an environment bad bacteria and viruses hate."
I know, green juice isn't quite as yummy as your grandma's hot cocoa, and garlic is certainly not a gingerbread cookie. But look on the bright side: The more nutrient-dense foods you eat now, the better your body will feel later so that you can enjoy all the holiday goodies your family's dessert buffet has to offer. And, even if you can't dig in much that day, at least you know Mom always makes enough for leftovers.