When the temperatures drop and the heavy coats come out, so should the cold and flu prevention methods. And while we are all familiar with ways to treat a cold or the flu virus (plenty of rest, liquids and a big box of tissues), many of us are not as familiar with ways to prevent these illnesses. Check out our expert advice from Charles B. Inlander, president of The People’s Medical Society, a non-profit group that advocates for medical patients, and Registered Nurse Kristina Duda via About.com.
- Wash your hands, frequently. Both Kristina and Charles list this simple preventative method as the most important weapon in your sickness-fighting arsenal. Sudsing up removes bacteria and viruses from your hands, thereby decreasing the likelihood that someone else’s cold or flu germs will be transmitted to you, ultra-important since both are normally spread via direct contact. As far as cleansers, research shows that harsh, antibacterial soaps aren’t any better at killing germs than regular versions, so opt for a gentle hand soap that won’t leave your paws dry and rough.
- Don’t touch! Covering your face when you cough or sneeze is just good manners, or so our mothers taught us, but Charles insists that this practice only helps the spread of icky bacteria. The best alternative is to use a tissue and throw it away immediately. When those aren’t available, cough or sneeze into the air after you’ve turned your face away from anyone that’s nearby.
- On a similar note, limit touching your face at all. "Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth" said Charles, so touching your face increases the likelihood of passing those viruses from someone else to you. And while you’re at it, keep your children’s hands off of their face and yours as well, since face-touching is the most common way that little ones infect themselves and their parents with colds.
- Get Vaccinated. This seems like a no-brainer, but most people walk around all winter without getting their flu shots. While it’s recommended for all, it’s essential for some groups of people, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Those groups are:
1. Children between the ages of 6 months and 19 years old
2. Pregnant women
3. People 50 years of age and older
4. People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (like asthma)
5. People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
6. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu
- Be Good to Yourself. All of those things that we know we need, like lots of liquids and fresh air, are natural ways to keep the immune system healthy. Water, especially, flushes out toxins in the body and re-hydrates you, according to Charles. He advocates a quick urine test to see if you’re getting enough water. If your urine is clear, or near clear, then your body is well-hydrated. If not, drinking more water is in your best interest. Fresh air is equally important, especially in the cold-weather months when indoor heat dries you out and people that are stuck indoors are circulating germs.
With any luck (plus these tips) there won’t be a cough, or sneeze, in the room this winter.
– Whitney Teal
Photo by Philip Reeson/Retna UK.