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This time of year may be all about social engagements, gifts and family but the holiday season is also synonymous with getting sick with colds and the flu.  Here are five tips that may help you keep those pesky germs at bay and beat the cold and flu season.  Some are common sense but are worth repeating while others are surprising ways to boost the immune system and increase the chances of having a happy and healthy holiday season.

1. Wash your hands.  Mom was right: washing your hands with soap and water helps prevent spreading the cold or flu virus.  Aim to scrub hands for at least 20 seconds.  And contrary to what is generally believed, hotter water doesn't kill germs and bacteria better than cooler water.  [Link Removed]  by Vanderbilt University found that washing hands well and often is more important than the temperature of the water used.  The study further states that hot water not only strips the skin of its natural protective layer but that the energy required to heat the water directly increases the amount of CO2 emissions.

2. Avoid touching your face.  Germs enter the body most commonly through the eyes, nose and mouth.  Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly bringing our hands up to our face to rub our eyes or scratch our nose.  Ever lick your finger to turn the page of book?

3. Relax.  It's no surprise that stress weakens the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to illness.  Chronic stress leaves the immune system unable to respond normally, producing levels of inflammation that allow illness to flourish.

4. Consider taking supplements.  Both ginseng and vitamin D have been shown to enhance the body's immune responses.  A 2009 study involving 19,000 people found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D experienced significantly more bouts of colds and flu.  In the winter when most North Americans do not produce adequate levels of vitamin D through daily sun exposure, [Link Removed]  may be an easy way to take "liquid sunshine".

5. Cut down on sugar.  Too much sugar in your diet slows down the white blood cells' ability to attack and kill bacteria.  The sugar in two sodas is enough to suppress the body's immune responses by up to 50% for as long as 5 hours.  In addition to the consumption of [Link Removed] , we now have even more reason to say no to the sweet stuff: it can seriously undermine the body's protective powers.

With a little luck and preventive action, you'll start the New Year in fine form and ready to take on whatever life throws at you!

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti-aging skin care and women's wellness. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed].
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