Avoiding and Fighting Cold and Flu
The holiday season is a prime time for colds and flu.
How to Keep Colds and Flu at Bay this Holiday Season
The winter months are notoriously known as cold and flu season. The holidays often add to your susceptibility of catching a cold or flu. As you run around the malls and crowded stores shopping, you are being exposed to hundreds of viruses. One thing about cold and flu bugs, they love to be shared. Add to that the typical holiday stress and you have a recipe for an infection that could land you in bed for days. While colds and flu are quite difficult to prevent, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Wash your hands often.
You have probably heard this since you were a child, but there is actually a proper way to wash your hands that boost your chances of dodging cold and flu.
- Wet your hands under water that is as hot as you can stand.
- Lather up with soap. Antibacterial soap is OK, but not really necessary if you are washing your hands correctly.
- Wash your palms, backs of your hands and between each finger. It should take at least 15-30 seconds to completely scrub your hands (a nurse tells me it is the equivalent of humming Happy Birthday twice).
- Rinse your hands thoroughly under water that is as hot as you can stand.
- Dry your hands thoroughly with paper towels or a hot air hand dryer.
- Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet, open the bathroom door, turn off the light, etc. The less contact you have with objects that others have touched, the better protected you are.
Use hand sanitizer religiously.
It is a good idea to carry hand sanitizer with you, especially if you are shopping or going in to areas where there is high traffic of people. You don't often think of all the things that people touch and all the germs that are on things such as clothes racks, door handles, elevator buttons and bathroom faucets. Keep the hand sanitizer with you and use it often at work, at home and when you are out shopping.
Many people who work with the public, such as cashiers and bank tellers, keep sanitizer with them and use it periodically during and after transactions. Handling money can expose you to lots of germs. When you make purchases and pay with cash, you are receiving money that has changed hands at least twice (the original holder and then the cashier) and you just don't know what germs they may carry. After handling money, use your hand sanitizer or wash your hands thoroughly. (This could be a great argument for the use of debit and credit cards!)
Avoid being in close contact with people who already have a cold.
If you have kids, this is pretty much impossible, but you can take other precautions. The first few days of the cold is when the person is most likely to spread the infection, so take extra precautions during that time. When you are out shopping, you may choose to take the stairs as opposed to a crowded elevator that can expose you to a multitude of infections.
After touching someone who has a cold or after touching something they have touched - WASH YOUR HANDS!
If you touch someone who has a cold, such as shaking their hand or hugging them, wash your hands or use your hand sanitizer. Wash your hands after you blow your own nose.
If your child has a cold, wash their toys after play. You can also use hand sanitizer on them. This will help keep the bugs at bay and keep your home healthier.
Change your toothbrush.
Your toothbrush can hold onto your germs and infections. When you are ill, change your toothbrush so that you do not re-infect yourself. You can pick up the inexpensive economy packs of toothbrushes and change it daily. Once you are well you can go back to your cooler, state-of-the-art toothbrush if you wish.
Keep your hands and fingers away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
The eyes, nose and mouth are very sensitive to infection and can provide a direct pathway for virus particles to invade your body. Keeping your hands and fingers from your nose, eyes and mouth will help keep you from exposing yourself and ultimately infecting yourself with cold and flu viruses that you may have acquired and picked up.
Use paper towels in the bathroom in your home or put out a second hand towel for the healthy folks to use.
Paper towels are probably the least likely way to spread infection since cloth towels can harbor viruses and pass them on. If you don't want to use paper towels, it is a good idea to put out a second hand towel. This way the healthy people can use one and have less of a risk of contracting infections.
Don't let the air in your home get too dry.
When your sinuses dry out, you are at a greater risk of catching a cold or flu. Running a humidifier in your home can help keep the air moist so that your sinuses and mucous membranes are moist and you are less likely to get sick.
Get plenty of rest.
A well-rested body is less prone to infection. Ideally, you should get 7 ½ to 8 ½ hours of sleep a night. If that is just not possible, you may be able to opt for a 30 minute nap in the afternoons. Try to sleep in on the weekends. When you lose sleep, you incur a ‘sleep debt.' You can ‘catch up' on your sleep by taking naps and sleeping in on the weekends, so try to do that when you can. The more sleep deprived your body is, the more susceptible you will be to infection. Now you have a healthy reason to sleep in!
Eat a regular, balanced diet and drink plenty of liquids.
Eating a regular, balanced diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can boost your cold fighting power substantially. Eat at least three times a day, but 5 or 6 small meals a day is better to help keep your insulin levels consistent. This will keep your body healthier, but it will also help cut down on anxiety related to holiday stress. Make sure that you keep your body well hydrated by drinking lots of water and fluids, but steer clear of sugary drinks, including fruit drinks. Studies have shown that sugar can actually hinder your body's ability to fight off infection.
These are all simple things that you can start doing today to protect yourself from infections. Taking these proactive steps can save you some miserable time in bed fighting a cold or flu. Besides, the holidays are much more fun when you are healthy! Protect yourself and be well.
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