ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Americans suffer from one billion colds each year. That’s not counting the flu. So how can you keep from getting either one this season?

You know the drill: runny nose, sneezing, coughing … no one likes to get sick!

Here’s what you can do: first, wash your hands often. A good rule of thumb, wash up anytime you shake someone’s hand or touch an object. There are 15 hundred bacteria on each one square centimeter of skin. Use warm water and plain soap and wash for at least 20 seconds. Another tip, exercise. One study found women who walked for 12 months were the most resistant to colds in the final quarter of the year. Also, get the flu vaccine, but if you do end up with the flu, you might want to skip the anti-virals to treat it.

Larry Altshuler, MD, Internist at Southwestern Regional Medical Center says, “Studies have shown that the anti-virals are not really that effective.”

Try elderberry syrup instead. Some studies have suggested it might reduce swelling in the mucous membranes and shorten the duration of flu symptoms by about three days. Also, quit smoking. It raises your risk of developing infections by decreasing your body’s immune response and changing your respiratory tract. And lastly, clean your purse! Purses are breeding grounds for germs. Experts say put away your cloth handbag for the winter and use one that’s easy to wipe down, like leather. With ways to prevent sickness this season.

About 200 thousand Americans are hospitalized each year because of problems with the flu and nearly ten million dollars are spent on hospitalizations and outpatient doctor visits.