It seems as if everyone somewhere has the sniffles or a little cough. Some may be the result of allergies—yes, you can have allergies even in the winter months; but others may be the result of viruses at various stages of their existence. Since you may not know for sure which it is you (or others around you) may be suffering from, it’s important to maintain good cold-and-flu mitigating behaviors, especially in February, which according to flu.gov is when (along with January) the seasonal flu season peaks.
Both cold viruses and influenza (the flu) are contagious, upper respiratory illnesses that are easily transmitted from such things as coughs, sneezes and coming into contact with the virus on commonly touched communal objects. Outside of getting a flu shot, which may not necessarily protect you from all strains of the influenza virus, here are five tips to reduce the chances of getting ill.
Tip 1—Hug your cough or sneeze
In the past few years, we’ve been told to sneeze or cough into your elbow. But try explaining that to a young child and watch him or her try to put his or her elbow up to his or her nose. It’s comical for sure, because the phrase doesn’t fully convey what we really do. Telling a child (or yourself) to hug your cough or sneeze describes the action perfectly and gets the inner elbow right where it should be when you’re covering a cough or sneeze—right over the nose and mouth. Why do this? Doing so keeps the mucus and saliva off of your hands (even if you use a tissue) and reduces the distance that mucus and saliva travel from the force behind your coughs and sneezes.
Tip 2—Wash your hands frequently
We touch many surfaces hundreds of times throughout the day. Think about how many times you touch your cell phone, computer, tablet, door knobs, your steering wheel, the trays in the cafeteria at your job, the remote control, light switches…you get the idea. Think about how often those things that you do touch frequently get a thorough cleaning—especially at home. Washing your hands in warm, sudsy water for at least 30 seconds throughout the day will kill germs that you could otherwise easily transmit to yourself or others.
Tip 3—Eat healthy foods and get enough rest
Increasing your intake of healthy, immunity-boosting foods and beverages may not prevent you from getting sick, but they can help reduce the length and duration of a cold or the flu as well as help you fight them better. According to Prevention Magazine, “you can ensure your body and immunity run smoothly by rounding out your plate with plenty of colorful servings of fruits and veggies, plus eight to ten glasses of water a day. Additionally, an over-tired body is more susceptible to infection. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “sleep is vital to our health and well-being, and is just as important as diet and exercise… [and] may also be a critical factor in your health, weight and energy level.” Make sure that you get enough rest so that your body can be at its best for fighting off illness.
Tip 4—Avoid germ factories
While you cannot keep your kids out of school during the duration of cold and flu season—and we all know how kids love to share their germs—you can avoid other places where there is a higher chance of coming into contact with people who are sick. If you don’t need to go to the doctor (where there are sick people) schedule your appointments for after cold and flu season as peaked. Similarly, skip the play area at your family’s favorite fast-food joint and other similar arcade/game type venues. While they may have hand sanitizer readily available, for patrons to use, staff is probably not wiping down the games after every player has touched them. If you regularly attend religious services, you may want to skip or alter your participation in communal activities (such as drinking from the Eucharistic cup if you’re Catholic or waving during the sign of peace instead of shaking hands) just to play it safe. People will understand and may even be appreciative that you didn’t want to share your germs with them at this time of year.
Tip 5—Make some hygienic changes at home
Remember those germy light switches, knobs and remote controls that everyone is touching—a lot? If you feel like waging an all-out assault on germs, wipe down the surfaces your family touches constantly with disinfecting wipes to help reduce the presence of the germs and viruses that may be the cause of your sniffles. If you haven’t changed your sheets in a while, now is a good time to—especially the pillow cases, which receive the brunt of drops and drips of mucus and salvia when we sleep. It’s also a good time to wash your children’s favorite stuffed animals and security blankets—especially the ones that they take everywhere, and their favorite blankets. Changing your family’s toothbrushes (or electric toothbrush heads) is also a good idea if you haven’t done so in a while.
These are just a few of the many things that you can do to help keep your family healthy and the germs at bay during the height of the cold and flu season. While you don’t need to be afraid of getting sick—most of us will come down with something during this time of year when we are spending more time indoors and in close proximity to one another, you can use these tips to take extra steps to reduce the chances of getting ill or reduce the duration of your illness.
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