Nov. 10, 2012 -- When it comes to colds, you know the drill. Once you have one, the best you can do is try to manage your symptoms, not cure it. So as your mother told you: Prevention really is the best medicine. Here are some surprising ways to keep germs at bay.
Practice Tai Chi
This Eastern exercise rev's your body's cold-fighting defenses by as much as 47% and even triples the protection you get from a flu shot. The secret to tai chi's elixir-like quality, scientists suspect, lies in its slow movements and controlled breathing.
Give Cold Prevention a Hand
Every time you push an elevator button, clutch a treadmill handle, or twist open a doorknob, your hands get populated by tons of germs. That's why washing your hands is the single best way to keep from getting sick, say experts. Scrub with soap and hot water for 20 seconds, and don't forget between your fingers and under nails. When you can't get to a sink, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, says Allison Aiello, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health."
Hang Out with Friends
You know that friendships counteract the harmful effects of stress hormones, but new research says the more friends you have, the healthier you'll be. Carnegie Mellon doctors gave 83 college freshmen an influenza vaccine and found that those with larger social networks produced more flu-fighting antibodies than those who hung out in smaller groups. Students who reported feeling lonely produced fewer antibodies, as well. Start a book group or check the Web (try Meetup.com) to cultivate hobbies and meet new people.
Give Your Toothbrush Some Breathing Room
If someone in your house has come down with a case of the sniffles, it may seem inevitable that you will start sneezing, too. One trick to avoid catching their germs: Keep your toothbrushes separate. Don't store your family's toothbrushes together in a glass. Put them in the sort of holder that doesn't let them touch each other. Shake them after using so that they dry fast--germs don't thrive well on dry surfaces. Of course, don't share toothbrushes--it's a very direct way to share germs.
Observe Kitchen Etiquette
Change dish towels every day. Don't dry dishes with the same towel that you use for your hands. Even better, let your dishes air dry. Clean your sponges in the dishwasher and change them often.
More from Prevention: