Sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, and congestion are just some of the symptoms that characterize the common cold. Also known as acute viral nasopharyngitis or acute coryza, the condition is so common, in fact, that it results in 75 to 100 million U.S. doctor visits at estimated cost of $7.7 billion per year, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Although there's no cure for the common cold, there are several ways to alleviate your symptoms. For many patients seeking relief, nasal decongestants, cough suppressants, and antihistamines may be helpful. In addition, some patients swear by natural remedies, such as garlic, echinacea, vitamin C, zinc, steam therapy, herbal teas, and chicken soup.

Of course, the best way to conquer a common cold is to avoid getting sick in the first place. Follow these eight preventative tips to reduce your risk.

1. Wash your hands often.

Washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds is an extremely effective way to rid your hands of bacteria. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which don't require water, are another good method of killing germs.

2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Bacteria can be spread quickly if you touch a contaminated surface, and then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose. Therefore, if you cough or blow your nose, be sure to wash your hands immediately. To play it extra safe, keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.

3. Don't smoke.

Studies show that smokers catch colds more often than those who don't smoke; plus, smokers' colds tend to be more severe. Even being around secondhand smoke can wreak havoc on your immune system. If you don't want to develop a cold (or other health conditions, for that matter), don't smoke—and don't hang around with those who do.

4. Get enough sleep.

It's often said that sleep is the best medicine, and being well-rested may be just what your body needs to fight off a cold.

5. Keep household surfaces clean.

Doorknobs, drawer pulls, keyboards, light switches, telephones, remote controls, countertops, and sinks can all harbor viruses for hours after use by an infected person. Wipe these surfaces frequently with soap and water or a disinfectant solution.

6. Don't share towels.

Sharing towels in the kitchen and bathroom can spread bacteria from one family member to another, as germs can live for several hours on these fabrics. Designate separate towels for each family member, and provide clean ones for guests.

7. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

While there's no direct evidence to prove that eating well or exercising can prevent colds, good nutrition and exercise can help ensure that your immune system is ready to fight infection. And don't forget those eight glasses of water a day!

8. If you get sick, stay home.

If you do end up getting a cold, stay home from school or work. By keeping away from other people as much as possible, you can help prevent the spread of bacteria while giving your body a chance to rest.