Stop a Cold Before It Starts

Run away from the rhinovirus and sidestep vitamin C.

Stop a Cold Before It Starts

Run away from the rhinovirus and sidestep vitamin C.

A brisk afternoon run at a moderate pace may be the second best way to avoid catching a cold this season. Exercising, such as running at a pace where you can still carry on a conversation, boosts the body’s production of disease-fighting white blood cells — so much so that a recent study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that physically active people suffered 20 percent fewer upper-respiratory infections a year than their less active counterparts.

What, then, is the first line of defense? The vast weight of scientific evidence points to exactly one surefire strategy: Wash your hands. People infected with the rhinovirus (which causes colds) transferred it to 35 percent of the surfaces they touched, where it survived for up to 18 hours, according to a recent study at the University of Virginia. So if you’ve recently turned a doorknob, shaken hands, sent a fax, kissed a cheek, paid for something in cash, or otherwise interacted with the outside world, you could already have the virus at your fingertips. . . literally. You’re not even safe at your desk, which, unless it’s cleaned regularly, will harbor very high numbers of microorganisms, according to researchers at the University of Arizona. Keep your hands clean by washing them regularly — especially before eating or preparing food — and by using an alcohol-based sanitizer, suggests Aaron Glatt, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and chairman of the department of medicine at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, NY. What you shouldn’t do, however, is put your faith in vitamin C or herbal remedies. These offer extremely limited, if any, protection against colds and the flu, according to a recent meta-analysis of 30 vitamin-C studies, says Dr. Glatt.