Wash your hands! It’s the best way to keep the germs away. But is it the only way? Here are a few of our favorite ways to ward off colds and flu during this dangerous time of year…

One-minute immunity boost: Take a one-minute cold shower to ward off those coughs and sneezes. Research at the Thrombosis Researchers Institute in London have found that cold water stimulates immune cell production. Theory: The body tries to warm itself during and after a cold shower, which speeds up the metabolic rate, activating the immune system. All you need is a minute, and you don’t have to stand still!

Age-old gargle: You’re probably familiar with the salt-water gargle for sore throats. But did you know that this old-fashioned remedy can also prevent colds? The salt solution helps to break up thick mucus, allowing germs to flow more easily from the nasal passages. What to do: Mix one-half teaspoon of salt (any kind of salt is fine) in about one-half cup of warm water. Gargle for a few seconds, then spit it out. Repeat with any remnants. Do this in the morning and at bedtime if you feel a sore throat coming on (don’t delay!). Salt acts like an astringent—it pulls water from swollen tissues, reduces congestion and relieves nerve pressure that causes soreness. For prevention: We gargle with salt after a day shopping among the sneezing, coughing crowds or after any other situation where we feel like we’ve been exposed to more than our usual daily dose of germs. Feel free to gargle if you just feel blah.

Less alcohol, more sleep: Try to imbibe mindfully during the cold-and-flu season, which means cutting back on alcohol or not drinking at all…hard to do during the holidays, we know! Recent studies show that alcohol impairs the ability of most immune cells to do their jobs. Even moderate drinking (one or two drinks per day) increases susceptibility to infection and disease due to weakened immunity. Other studies link alcohol intake to slow healing, not only from accidental injuries but also surgical procedures.

Also, be sure to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. According to another landmark study, people who slept eight to nine hours a night in the winter months had fewer colds and were less likely to get the flu than those who slept less. So hunker down in your cool bedroom and pile on those blankets!

Thanks to Miranda Wilhelm, PharmD, clinical associate professor, Southern University Illinois Edwardsville School of Pharmacy, Edwardsville, Illinois…Elizabeth J. Kovacs, PhD, professor and vice chair of research at the department of surgery at the Stritch School of Medicine of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois…Jamison Starbuck, ND, naturopathic physician in family practice in Missoula, Montana…and DailyMail.co.uk for help with these tips.