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Shortcuts: How to beat a cold

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(CNN) -- It's winter in the northern hemisphere, which can mean coughs, colds and sniffles. For those down south, summer colds are equally annoying. There might not be a cure for the common cold, but there are things you can do to prevent spending the season in bed with a box of tissues.

Wash your hands: It is estimated that more than half of all colds are transmitted by hand-to-hand contact. You don't need to develop an obsessive compulsive disorder level of keeping your hands clean, but you should always wash your hands with hot, soapy after going to the bathroom, as well as before eating. Most people touch their face on average three to five times a minute, giving bugs easy access to your body via your nose, mouth and eyes. Office desktops, keyboards, telephones and the ground floor button of a lift are among the most contaminated surfaces.

Shake it off: Because hands are a breeding ground for bacteria, shaking hands can be a minefield. Carry a bottle of alcohol-based hand rub containing at least 60 percent alcohol, which kills most germs, for times when soap and water aren't available.

You carry what on your handbag? A University of Arizona study earlier this year found that every women's handbag tested had at least some contaminants that could cause sickness; most had tens of thousands. One in three of those tested had fecal bacteria on the bottom, most likely because women tend to put their bags on the floor in public bathrooms. Wipe the bottom of your handbag regularly and hang it on a hook when using public restrooms.

Steer clear of colds: Avoid close, prolonged contact with anyone who has a cold. If you're in a public space and someone near you is coughing or sneezing, move away. If you're working with someone who is unwell, the best you can do is ask them to cover their mouths with a tissue when they cough and sneeze. If you're the person who is unwell, always sneeze and cough into tissues. Discard used tissues right away, and then wash your hands.

Consider the alternatives: Whether therapies such as vitamin C, zinc and echinacea relieve cold symptoms remains controversial. But the latest research seems to show that moderate doses of vitamin C can shorten the duration of a cold and that zinc nasal sprays or lozenges taken at the beginning of a cold may help reduce symptoms.

Wrap up warm: Your mother probably told you never to go out with wet hair and to wrap up warm so you don't catch a cold. Studies have shown that there is a much higher chance of catching a cold or virus from someone who is infected than from being exposed to cold temperatures. But it is commonly agreed that cold, dry weather boosts the survival time of some cold viruses, which increases the chance of bugs spreading. And the cold weather dries out the lining of your nasal passages, making you more susceptible to infection. So while the cold weather alone won't make you sick, it's good to stay warm.

Gadgets for germophobes: There are numerous inventions designed to help beat the common cold. From the "germ-free" computer mouse, the portable subway strap that latches on to the overhead bar on public transport to your very own super suction door handle that grips on to doors so you don't have to touch the existing handle. The possibilities are endless once you begin trawling the Internet.


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If someone is coughing and sneezing, get them to cover their mouth with a tissue.

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