The ultimate cold and flu survival guide

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Combat the arrival of cold and flu season by being mindful of your habits

Zinc-rich foods and other items like yogurt and mushrooms can give your immune system a boost

Each year, the typical adult can expect to contract two or three colds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Skip the annual flu vaccine and you set yourself up for a bout of that as well. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Aside from good hand washing (with soap, for at least 20 seconds), “there’s a lot you can do to drastically cut your risk of getting sick,” says Holly Phillips, MD, a general internist in New York City. “And even if you do catch a bug, you may be able to cut short the duration of your illness.” Arm yourself with these tips from the experts, and make this cold and flu season your healthiest yet.

Eat yogurt for breakfast

The same live cultures that help ease digestive distress can help stave off a cold, says Dr. Phillips, who wrote “The Exhaustion Breakthrough” ($20; amazon.com). A 2011 study backs this up: Scientists found that people who consumed probiotics via supplements or fermented foods (think yogurt, kefir and kimchi) had 12 percent fewer upper respiratory infections.

Crack open a window

Spending the day in a stuffy room with anyone who’s under the weather raises your risk of catching a bug. Letting a little fresh air circulate keeps airborne viral particles on the move, making them harder to pick up, says Dr. Phillips.

RELATED: 20 Surprising Ways to Prevent Colds and Flu

Have some mushrooms

New research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition offered evidence of their immune-boosting powers. People who ate a cooked shiitake mushroom daily for a month showed higher numbers of T cells and less inflammation.