What should I do to reduce risk of colds?

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Suzy Cohen

Dear Pharmacist:

Every winter I worry about catching cold and flu. What are some simple steps I can take to keep my immune system healthy?

— L.F., Alexandria, Va.

Dear L.F.:

Preventing the spread of germs is job one. If you feel any symptoms of a cold, please stay home and delegate your errands to a friend or relative. Also, keep your distance from other individuals home with you, such as your husband or child, who could potentially fall ill.

Being mindful of this could have lasting benefits if you consider the fact that another person who catches your cold could end up with pneumonia should they have a weak immune system.

If you have to cough or sneeze, please do so into the crook of your elbow. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and for at least 30 seconds.

To protect yourself, while shopping for bargains at the mall, or waiting in airport security lines, or anywhere for that matter, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth. I also recommend keeping antibacterial lotion or wipes handy.

With that, here are some of my top vitamin recommendations to help support immunity:

Probiotics: These are beneficial bacteria that naturally help maintain immune system wellness. They also aid in proper digestion.

Vitamin C: The human body doesn’t make vitamin C, so it’s important that we get it from other sources such as supplements, citrus fruits or vegetables (bell peppers are a good source). It’s a strong antioxidant that does “housekeeping” on your cells and helps support the immune system.

Vitamin D: Getting your Vitamin D from sunlight isn’t always reliable, especially if you use sun block to protect your skin or live in a state with a long winter.

Most people don’t realize that Vitamin D is mostly obtained from fortified foods. A Vitamin D supplement can provide added support. Try 1,000 to 5,000 IUs, but ask your doctor first to confirm the amount. You want the bio-active form, “Vitamin D3,” and high-quality supplements say that on the label.

Zinc: This mineral is a strong antioxidant best known for supporting prostate health, but it also happens to neutralize free radicals. It may reduce the duration of a cold.

Elderberry extract: This herb has been revered for centuries and is best known for its anti-viral effects. Two separate studies have found that it can inhibit influenza if taken during the first 48 hours of symptoms.

Echinacea: Related to daisies, this herbal supplement is thought to rev up the immune system, thereby lowering risk of infection. Recommended dosage is usually in cycles, not every single day.

When choosing dietary supplements, seek out brands that are committed to science-based protocols for product development and testing.

Be sure to ask your healthcare professional or pharmacist what supplements are best for you, especially if you take medications.

This information is opinion only. It is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Consult with your doctor before using any new drug or supplement.
Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist and the author of The 24-Hour Pharmacist and Real Solutions from Head to Toe. To contact her, visit www.dearpharmacist.com.