Surviving colds in the cold

By Blake Glosson

It might seem that being sick just comes with the territory this time of year; however you don’t have to join the misery just because everyone else is doing it.

Germs are easily spread when everyone is stuck inside in close quarters. On top of that, immune systems are weakened when nasal passageways are dried up and compromised by the cold weather.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to treat sickness and even to avoid it entirely.

Arguably the most important factor in resisting infection is keeping your hands clean.

While I can’t speak with much expertise about what happens in women’s bathrooms, I know the men’s sinks are often left untouched during a restroom visit.

Washing your hands is not only the modest move; it’s also the smart one.

Twenty seconds of hand washing could potentially save you from days of tired gloom and coughing up glorious globs of dreadful mucus.

Of course, taking a moment to wash your hands doesn’t only benefit you — it also reduces the likelihood of you spreading infectious microbes to your friends, classmates and teachers.

“When you’re sick, you need to be very careful of keeping your sickness to yourself, so [this means] washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth if you sneeze or cough, and then washing again,” said Joan Quinn, food systems laboratory coordinator.

In addition to keeping your hands clean, having a healthy diet is another key element in fending off infirmity. And no, this doesn’t mean gulping down a few packets of Emergen-C every day.

“For overall health you need overall nutrition, and that just means eating a well-balanced diet all the time. One nutrient isn’t going to keep colds away,” Quinn said.

Sure, chocolate cake might have some protein and a gram or two of fiber, but it’s the micronutrients — the vitamins and minerals — that play an extreme role in preventing any ailment.

The king of nutrient-dense foods is the vegetable. Vegetables like carrots, spinach and snap peas provide more nutrients for fewer calories than any other natural food option out there.

You can get all the vitamin C you need for a day in just 30 calories’ worth of broccoli.

Fruit is also a healthy way to get vitamins and minerals.

James Pniewski, junior nutrition and dietetics major, recommends blending vegetables and fruits into a smoothie for a unique and delicious experience.

“The green smoothies are awesome; it’s a good way to get vitamins and minerals,” Pniewski said. “I put [in] stuff like kale, dandelion greens, spinach … I usually do [add] a couple fruits, like banana or an apple and a mango.

“I just play with it — there’s no recipe; it’s just how I feel, what I want to taste.”

Exercise is another no-brainer. Many studies have shown that exercise has a positive effect on the health of the immune system, leading to less frequent colds.

I know firsthand that when I exercise consistently and eat healthy, I am rarely sick.

If I get off the healthy train by eating junk and neglecting exercise for a couple days, I can feel myself getting weaker and more susceptible to illness.

One final component in keeping your body spiffy and fresh is getting adequate sleep. This aspect is far too often overlooked and brushed aside.

As a busy student myself, I know it’s tempting to skimp on sleep once everything is accomplished and you actually have free time. I’ve had those 2 a.m. nights when “just one more episode” keeps me awake later than I should be.

But, the downsides of missing out on sleep are not worth it. Nighttime is most valuable when it’s used for sleeping.

If you want the benefits of being in good health, you have to make the extra effort.

Eat healthily, exercise regularly, sleep adequately, and wash your hands thoroughly.

If you do these things, you can look forward to a healthful 2014.