10 Tips for Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
Colds, flu and other illnesses can make for misery at home, school and the workplace.
How can you keep yourself and others safe from what’s going around? Remember to:
Wash your hands
Washing your hands is the first and best defense to protect yourself from germs. One study found that regular hand washing can reduce respiratory illness transmission by more than 20 percent. Make it a habit at every possible break. Rinse your hands and lather with soap, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.
Use hand sanitizer
If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Studies show sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60 and 95 percent are more effective at killing germs than those with lower concentrations or non-alcohol-based sanitizers.
Stop biting your nails
No matter how good you are about washing your hands or using sanitizer, your fingers touch everything, and your nails collect it – including germs and bacteria. Touching your face or biting your nails puts those germs on a direct route to your mouth and nose, giving them the ability to start making you sick.
Disinfect high-touch areas
Germs can live on hard surfaces for several hours – some up to several days. Kitchen and bathroom countertops, door handles, and gym equipment are all breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. That’s why it’s important to disinfect often. You also should also be wiping down phones, remotes and light switches.
Don’t forget the laundry
Clothes, towels and bedding – and yes, those favorite stuffed animals – can be a key culprit in spreading infectious germs and flu. Wash items in the hottest water safe for the fabric and use color-safe bleach to wipe out germs. When handling dirty laundry, carry items in a basket instead of hugging potentially contaminated clothes to your chest. Pour the items directly into the machine if possible and wash your hands after handling dirty materials.
Get good sleep
Research shows that people who get less than seven hours of sleep each night are three times more likely to catch colds than those who get at least eight hours. Getting quality sleep on a regular basis strengthens your immune system (and has many other benefits), helping your body fight off colds, the flu and other infections.
Boost your immune system
You can boost your body’s ability to fight off sickness by adding the right vitamins and nutrients to your diet. Some research suggests vitamin C can help shorten the duration of colds or even help prevent them. Research also has shown that zinc may decrease how long your common cold lasts, and vitamin D3 has been shown to support your immune system.
Get a flu shot
Getting immunized is the best way to avoid influenza. Flu viruses mutate each season, so you need to get a vaccine each year. Everyone older than 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine, especially the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
Get some fresh air – even when it's freezing out
One of the reasons sickness spreads more easily in winter is because we’re all inside sharing the same air. Opening a window to let in some fresh air or stepping outside for a brief walk can do wonders for clearing out the lungs. If that’s not an option, an air purifier is an excellent investment. Some models are specifically designed to remove allergens, inactivate bacteria and neutralize viruses.
It should go without saying, but stay away from others who are sick if possible. If you are sick, stay home. Cover your mouth when you cough, preferably with something other than your hand.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Talk with your Methodist Physicians Clinic health care provider for the best ways to keep yourself healthy not only during cold and flu season, but year-round.