- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Staying Well During Cold and Flu Season
It is cold and flu season now and this year we get to deal with two different strains of the flu - regular influenza and H1N1 (otherwise known as swine flu). What fun. Unfortunately, many people are not able to stay home in bed when they are sick, which means you could come into contact with them at any time. But that doesn't mean you WILL get sick. Believe it or not, there are things you can do to avoid getting sick.
There are three areas of the body where germs can enter - the eyes, nose and mouth areas. These are the areas you will need to protect the most to stay healthy. While you can pick up germs on your hands, there are many germs floating around in the air due to people coughing and sneezing. Your nose is equipped with hair, membranes and mucus - all defense mechanisms to keep you well. Your mouth has the throat area that has mucus and saliva to capture germs. Your eyes unfortunately don't have much to protect them. Be very careful not to stick your fingers in your eyes and this will help you stay healthy.
We hear it all the time, but it is true - washing your hands is the best way to avoid getting sick. When I am out running errands, I put Purell on my hands as soon as I get in the car and I wash them as soon as I get home. When I am at home, I wash my hands frequently. Washing your hands does help to keep you well.
There are some things that are typically more germ infested than other items. Shopping carts, door handles and knobs, keyboards, phones, light switches, and money all come to mind. At home I use antiseptic wipes to wipe down areas that are frequently touched, which really cuts down on the spread of illnesses. I know families where if one person gets something, within a few days everyone has it. That is not the case at my house. In fact I have had two children get H1N1 at separate times, but it has not spread to anyone else. The only reason I think this happened is because we are so good about limiting the spread of germs whenever we can.
Aside from washing your hands and keeping your hands away from your face there are other things you can do. Eat and drink things that are proven to boost your immune system. Get enough sleep so that your body can fight off germs. Instead of sniffling when you have a runny nose (that brings the germs farther into your body) blow your nose into a Kleenex to get rid of the germs. Each night gargle with either salt water or Listerine (generic is fine) to kill any germs that might be hanging around in your throat. Get fresh air and sunshine whenever you can. The sun provides our body with vitamin D, which is an immune booster.
Try to avoid sick people as best you can. If someone is coughing at church, sit on the other side of the building. If the flu is running rampant at your office, see if you can work from home. Avoid crowded places where you will be in close contact to other people.
This is going to be a tough winter for many parts of the world. You can't depend on a flu vaccine to stay healthy; there are plenty of other illnesses out there that could bring you down. Take these precautions and help yourself stay healthy this winter.