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We’ve all been through it. The never-ending runny nose, the puffy eyes and the head full of cotton wool, the common cold is merciless on its assault on the immune systems of everyone when the days get colder. But what is the best way to avoid getting that dreaded week full of coughing and sneezing?

We’ve searched far and wide to find these five top cold-fighting tips:

Wash your hands!

It sounds simple, and that’s because it is. Our hands are hives of bacteria, after all, we use them for pretty much everything! Shockingly, a study by the University of Colorado discovered that there were over 300,000 genetically different bacteria on our hands alone.

Ensuring your hands are scrubbed thoroughly with warm water and hand soap before putting them near your mouth (such as when eating), can seriously reduce your chances of getting that dastardly cold!

Sneeze into a tissue (if you can)

Sneezing is as commonplace as a woolly jumper when the nights start drawing in, and it’s important to tackle these sudden saliva-sprays (yuk!) properly.

When you feel your eyes scrunch up as that inevitable feeling creeps into your nose, make a leap for the nearest packet of tissues, and wrap one around your nose to capture the germs and bacteria before they burst forth from your nostrils.

Discard your used tissue into the nearest bin, give your hands a seeing to with warm water and hand soap and hey presto, that’s one germ-free set of hands (well, almost!).

Get plenty of sleep

It’s far easier said than done (I mean, who doesn’t love the idea of more sleep?) but catching more shut eye gives your body longer to recharge those batteries, and fight off any potentially harmful bacteria.

Plus, if you’re trying to lose a few inches off your waistline after some winter-feasting, getting at least 7 hours sleep a night can help in tackling the tummy bulge. In fact, an NHS article examined a study that found that those who got between 6 – 8 hours sleep a night had a greater chance of reaching their weight-loss goal than those who got less or more. Read more about the study here

Exercise

Yawn! It must be the oldest trick in the book, but for good reason! Fitting a small amount of exercise into your week can make all the difference when it comes to maintain frontline defences against the common cold.

Physical activity, such as daily 20 – 30 minute walks or going to the gym every other day can help flush out harmful bacteria from the lungs and airways, reducing your chances of coming down with a cold. Plus, the increase in body temperature experienced during exercise can help in preventing bad bacteria from growing further (and assist in fighting infection if you already have it).

Wrap up warm

It can be all too tempting to just ‘pop to the shop’ without wrapping up to suit the climate outside. If there’s a chill in the air, be sure to wear enough layers to suit, and stop the unnecessary strain on your body’s internal thermostat. A cold can be contracted through just that, being cold, hence the name!