1: Helping hands

Clean hands are the best defence against colds and flu, but stopping your lesson to scrub up just isn’t practical. Doctors say that regular soap is all you need to get rid of bacteria but alcohol-based sanitizers work as well.

When you rub your eyes, nose or mouth, you give germs VIP access into your body. Viruses spread through mucous membranes. Deny them entry by keeping your hands off your face!

Note: Please check with your school board to find out if it limits school hand sanitizer use to approved products.

Try: Life Brand Hand Sanitizer, 236 ml, $4.99.

2: Blow off

In a perfect world you’d always have a fresh tissue but often the only thing at your fingertips is what’s at the bottom of your bag. Sound familiar? Then reach for an antiviral variety that traps viruses and kills them within 15 minutes. Technique matters too; studies suggest that blowing too hard can propel some of the mucous back into your sinuses.

Try: Kleenex Anti-Viral Tissues, $3.49

3: Wipe out

Viruses can linger on surfaces for up to two days, so doctors suggest disinfecting communal objects once a day. Stash a container of these wipes in your desk or keep a few in a resealable bag if you change classrooms. The Canadian Medical Association recommends steering clear of antibacterial products, which contain triclosan and similar antimicrobial agents, because they could cause germs to become resistant to antibiotics.

Try: Green Works Compostable Cleaning Wipes, $4.79

4: Chocolate fix

One study shows that theobromine, a chemical found in chocolate, suppresses the nerve activity responsible for coughing and can be more effective in stopping persistent coughs than codeine. While Toronto consulting dietician and nutrition columnist Rosie Schwartz warns that you’d have to eat a lot of chocolate to get any benefit, we’re filing this under “Why not?”

Try: Lindt 70% Cacao, $6.99 for 30 squares

5: Get your Ds

Not many supplements effectively help combat colds and flu but vitamin D may be the exception, says Schwartz, who recommends a daily dose of 2000 IU. Not big on supplements? Then take a midday 15-minute stroll in the summer sun (no sunscreen) and soak up five times that amount naturally.

Try: Adult Essentials Gummies, 90 gummies, $14.49

6: Drink up

When you’re craving a hot drink on a cold day, skip the caffeine-rich coffee and reach for a cup of black or green tea, says Schwartz. Flavour it with anti-inflammatory ginger or pomegranate for nutrients and add honey to soothe an aching throat. If you’re already sick and losing fluids, replace your body’s electrolytes with another healthy option, coconut water — nature’s answer to Gatorade.

Try: Sweet Ginger Heat, 50 g $6.50 or Blueberry Jam, 50 g $8, davidstea.com; O.N.E Coconut Water $2.99

7: Zinc it up

Give your immune system a boost by adding a zinc supplement to your daily routine. Doctors say that not only will it protect you from getting sick, but it can also shorten the life of a cold by 40 per cent. Already feeling symptoms? Zinc lozenges will also fight sore throat inflammation.

Try: Jamieson Zinc Lozenges, 30 lozenges, $8.49

How do you keep those pesky bugs from going viral? Share your tip and you could win our germ-busting kit. Email ps@oct.ca by March 31 and look for the winner in our June issue.

Already Sick?

Chicken soup: Simmer it up from scratch with garlic and ginger – a powerful combination of antiviral ingredients.

Echinacea: It won’t prevent a cold but it might help you get better, faster.

Salt: Listen to your mother — gargle with salt and warm water to soothe a sore throat.

Photos: Mark Burstyn; iStockphoto (salt)