How NOT to Catch a Cold!

The person sitting next to you on the train is coughing, the bank teller serving you sneezes repeatedly into their hands, the person in front of you at the pharmacy complains of a fever with aches and pains, UGH! You don’t want to catch a cold! What is a person to do?

DID YOU KNOW … virus droplets can travel in the air more than 6 feet away from the source? So, if someone coughs or sneezes near you – there’s no guarantee you won’t get sick. However, there are some things you can do that MAY HELP decrease your risk:

Talk to your doctor about getting your flu shot. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The live nasal spray flu vaccine is NOT recommended for use during the 2016-2017 season. This is due to concerns over its effectiveness. Older patients (those 65 years and older) may wish to ask their doctors about receiving a high-dose shot which contains four times the amount of antigen contained in regular flu shots. This is intended to prompt the body to make antibodies and provides a stronger immune response in patients who get the vaccine. Since most flu activity occurs between October and May, it is important to get your shot early; especially before the peak months from December to early March.

Practice appropriate coughing & sneezing habits. Never cough or sneeze directly into your hands. Quite frankly, your hands are not tissues, and the practice is gross. WebMD recommends covering your mouth and nose with a tissue. Then, promptly discard the tissue into the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow. Why? This will stop infected droplets from spreading in the air. It will also mean that fewer germs will end up on hands, thus germs are less likely to be spread through touch. Wash your arm as soon as possible, and wash clothing in hot water to stop the spread of germs. Also, when you are sick, make sure that your bath towel is not used by anyone other than you, and wash it in hot water after use.

Disinfect surfaces. We touch a lot of surfaces, such as cell phones, computer keyboards, remote controls, light switches, YOU GET THE PICTURE. While surfaces may look clean, they can harbor germs that in some instances may live on surfaces for days. You can’t dust away germs, so it’s important to regularly disinfect areas of the home where germs may lurk. When cleaning, look for products that contain ingredients to destroy bacteria and germs. Look for an EPA registration number, and make sure that the product is labeled as a “disinfectant” and not a mere cleaner. Routinely disinfect kitchen areas where food is prepared, and also regularly disinfect bathrooms. Be careful to avoid cross contamination when cleaning.

Take care of yourself. Eat wisely and include vitamin and mineral rich food into your diet. Drink plenty of water, which helps to flush out waste, prevent headaches, cure constipation, and aids in fiber intake. It also keeps you hydrated and feeling stronger. There is also no doubt about the health benefits of getting a good night’s rest. In fact, it is now believed that sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Adequate sleep is believed to improve immune function to help fight the common cold and flu. Adding vitamin supplements to one’s diet might be helpful. While many vitamins are considered safe, always consult a medical doctor before taking any on your own. Some vitamins have side effects or may interact with other medications. In addition, it is important to take the proper dosage. People who eat a healthy variety of food may not need to take supplements at all, so it’s important to talk to your physician. If vitamins are recommended, ask your doctor to provide you with scientifically sound information about your vitamins so you can become a knowledgeable consumer.

Wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Many people consider this combination to be the easiest way to prevent getting sick. Germs are often spread when a person touches a surface or object that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her own eyes, nose, or mouth. However, if people properly wash germs off their hands with soap and warm water, it can prevent the germs from being passed from person to person in many instances. HOW TO WASH HANDS: Be sure to use running water, lather well, scrub vigorously for at least 20 seconds, get all surfaces clean including under fingernails, rinse well and dry with a disposable towel or air dryer. Do not use antibacterial soap on your hands, which may lead to the development of bacteria, which is resistant to antimicrobial agents. Germs from unwashed hands can get into food via preparation and eating. Proper hand washing can limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. According to the CDC, hand washing may reduce respiratory illnesses like colds in the general population by as much as 16 to 21%.

Stay away from sick people. According to WebMD, one way to prevent the spread of illnesses is to avoid direct contact with sick individuals. This is a sound way to stop the spread of cold and flus which are often easily passed from one person to another via direct contact or by being in close proximity. There are many different viruses that cause colds or the flu. While germs are everywhere, direct contact with a person who is ill will likely increase your odds of getting sick. Colds are contagious, especially when nasal discharge is present containing the live virus. Also, viruses may be present in the back of the throat of the infected person. When they breathe out, the person next to them may get infected. That’s because cold and flu viruses can be passed on through infected droplets. If you’re sick with a bad cold, it’s good advice to stay home and rest. To prevent other family members from getting sick, stay in your bedroom, and use a separate bathroom if possible.

Don’t share drinks and utensils, even with people who are not sick. Why not? Because people may be contagious before their symptoms appear. This means that colds and flus may be passed along before people realize they are sick, as well as when they exhibit symptoms.

Note: States are not required to report individual seasonal flu cases or deaths, so it is difficult to know that exact number of people who are infected by and who die from the flu each year in the United States. The flu is more serious than a common cold, and the flu may lead to serious complications in some individuals. If you have the flu and are quite ill, or your symptoms become serious, immediately contact your health care provider for advice or to seek anti-viral drugs. Get medical assistance if you have the flu and are at risk for complications due to advanced age or other medical conditions.

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