by Sara Lindberg
Runny nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, sneezing, and just feeling awful are all signs that you might have a cold. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults on average have about two to three colds each year. When you consider that the average cold lasts seven to 10 days, that’s 18 to 20 days out of 365 each year.
Although that may not seem like much, the common cold can be debilitating — especially if you’re one of the many people who get several colds a year. From missed work days and reduced productivity to a decline in your ability to participate in daily activities, it’s important to pinpoint the reason you’re getting frequent colds.
INSIDER asked four doctors to share their thoughts on why you might be getting the sniffles more often than you should.
One reason you may find yourself catching colds frequently is because of smoking. Cedrina Calder, preventive medicine doctor and health expert told INSIDER that the chemicals found in cigarette smoke have been found to alter the immune system’s natural response by weakening it.
“It directly affects the cells of the immune system which causes you to become more likely to catch frequent colds,” she explained.
Additionally, Calder said that smoking temporarily damages the tiny little hairs of the respiratory tract that normally help to clear out mucus and debris which carry germs.
“By damaging these hairs, it puts you at a greater risk of getting respiratory infections like the common cold,” added Calder.
To prevent frequent colds, she said the best solution is to stop smoking altogether. Speak to your doctor about quitting smoking and your options for helping to break the habit.
Are you an avid hand-washer or do you only scrub in the shower? If you’re slacking on your hygiene, don’t be surprised if you find yourself with the sniffles on a regular basis.
“When you don’t stick to strong hand hygiene practices, you are creating an environment that sets the stage up for recurrent infections like a cold,” said Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, physician and health expert. That’s because viral particles caused by the common cold may spread easily, especially when you ignore your hand hygiene.
According to Calder, stress can weaken the immune system’s ability to fight infection by decreasing the number of immune cells and blunting the immune system’s response to infection.
To reduce the number of colds you’re getting, Calder recommended addressing some of the stressors that you have in your life. You might also want to consider stress-reducing practices like yoga, meditation, or mindfulness techniques to help cope with stress.
Do you wake up rested and ready to face the day or do you play the snooze game with your alarm? If you’re not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, you might be increasing the odds that you’ll end up sick.
“The effect of sleep deprivation goes beyond simply feeling chronically tired and lethargic,” Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe told INSIDER.
“Lack of sleep is linked to a weaker immune system and heightened susceptibility to the common cold,” she added. That’s why she said to work on cultivating strong sleep habits to get quality sleep every night.
If you’re eating unhealthy foods, Dr. Frank Lipman told INSIDER that your immune system is probably lower than ideal and you’re likely picking up bugs easily.
To counter this, Lipman said to avoid sugar and processed foods, both of which might decrease immune function. And instead, he recommended loading up on nutrient-rich whole foods, like well-sourced organic, grass-fed and finished animal protein, nourishing soups, colorful salads, and green-leafy veggies which are packed with flu-fighting phytonutrients.
If you’re spending more time indoors due to the bitter cold or you just find yourself inside more than usual, you might be experiencing frequent colds, according to Jason Abramowitz, MD at ENT & Allergy Associates.
“During the colder months, people are indoors more, which leads to more indoor contact and spreading of germs,” he explained. Abramowitz also said that colder temperatures can slow down the immune system, which makes it easier to get sick.
Plus, being inside means more exposure to dust, and Abramowitz said this can trigger allergies, which can often feel like the common cold.
If you have a weakened immune system, you’re at a higher risk of developing health problems such as the common cold. In addition to recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus infections, frequent colds are also common if your immune system is compromised.
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