Cold and flu season is in full swing, and who wants to be sick over the holidays? Keep yourself and your family healthy over the coming months by practicing these cold and flu prevention tips to reduce the risk of getting an infection and prevent the spread of germs.
1. Understand the difference between the flu and a cold.
The flu and the common cold have many similar symptoms, so knowing the difference can be difficult at first. However, flu symptoms are much more severe and hit more quickly and intensely than cold symptoms. Cold symptoms are more gradual and milder. So, if you get sick, note the severity of your symptoms to make sure that you’re treating your symptoms effectively. On top of common cold symptoms, flu symptoms include:
- Body aches
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
If you think you could have the flu, see your doctor as soon as possible to get a flu test. Your provider can give you an antiviral prescription to help your body recover more quickly.
2. Keep your hands clean.
Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways that you can effectively prevent the influenza virus. Keeping your hands clean can lower the risk of respiratory infection by 16%, so wash your hands often and remind those around you to do the same, especially during cold and flu season.
Always wash your hands before touching food, after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, sneezing, coughing or coming into contact with a sick person. Here is a guide for effective handwashing:
- Wet your hands with warm, soapy water.
- Work the soap into a lather and pay extra attention to the backs of your hands, in-between your fingers and under your fingernails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands under clean, running water, dry with them with a clean towel or let them air dry.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands with running water, but an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can do the job if you’re not near a sink.
3. Disinfect common objects and surfaces.
People come into contact with endless things on a daily basis: doorknobs, remotes, cellphones, keyboards, ATMs, toys, grocery carts, gym equipment, elevator buttons, bathroom fixtures – the list goes on and on. Did you know that the flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours? That’s a long time for germs to spread, so it’s critical to disinfect everyday objects and surfaces. When was the last time you cleaned your work desk or steering wheel? Try to make a habit of cleaning your common spaces regularly with a virus-killing disinfectant this cold and flu season. Make sure to disinfect with products that contain:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Iodine-based antiseptics
4. Avoid sick people.
Try your best to stay away from people who are sick, and be especially cautious of visitors that you allow into your home. Remember that children, pregnant women and adults over the age of 65 are the most prone to getting the flu and more likely to experience complications if they get the virus.
5. Get a flu shot.
One of the top ways to prevent the flu is by getting a flu shot each year. Flu shots differ from year to year to fight the most common influenza strains during an upcoming flu season. If you get a flu shot, you are still susceptible to getting sick, so it’s necessary to keep healthy habits a priority all cold and flu season.
6. Boost your immune system with self-care.
When self-care is a part of your lifestyle, you practice healthy habits all year long, like getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercises regularly and hydrating your body. Your immune system is stronger when you take care of yourself, so be sure to prioritize your wellness to ward off more viral germs.
7. Cover your sneezes and coughs.
Prevent spreading germs by coughing and sneezing into a tissue or into the crook of your arm. This will keep bacteria off of your hands and prevent them from becoming airborne.
8. Avoid putting your hands in your mouth.
Your hands may come into contact with your mouth (plus your eyes and nose) a lot more than you’d think. Whether you’re biting your nails or eating potato chips, you’re putting your hands in your mouth. Your eyes, nose and mouth are all portals for germs to spread to your mucous membrane, where they could develop into a cold or the flu.
Steps to Take if You Get the Flu
If you get the flu, it is recommended to seek antiviral treatment from a doctor right away. This is the most effective treatment for the flu as it starts working within two days of the onset of symptoms. Many people can recover from the flu within seven to 10 days, with the most severe symptoms subsiding after four days. No matter what, make sure to follow your doctor’s treatment plan and get a lot of rest and drink plenty of fluids.