Debugging Colds and Flus
Winter may not officially arrive this year until Dec. 22, but cold and flu season is already in full swing.
There's good news, though: A few simple actions can greatly reduce your chances of getting a cold or the flu and help prevent your family, friends and coworkers from becoming sick as well, says Joanne C. Langan, Ph.D., R.N., coordinator of clinical resources at the Saint Louis University School of Nursing and a member of the university's Pandemic Response Planning Committee.
"These are common-sense steps everyone should take throughout the year, but it's especially important now that winter's here and cold and flu season is under way," Langan said.
Langan offers seven steps she says are crucial to staying well this winter and prevent spreading cold or flu germs to others.
- Get a flu shot. Flu shots are particularly important for people at high risk for serious complications from influenza -- including young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
- Wash your hands often. If you can't wash with soap and water, alcohol-based gels and wipes can be used.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Those are "major points of entry" for all kinds of germs, particularly those that cause colds and the flu, Langan said.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, eat nutritious food, drink plenty of water and other fluids and learn how to manage your stress.
- Cover your nose and mouth. If you're about to sneeze or cough, put your hand or a handkerchief over your nose and mouth -- or sneeze or cough into your sleeve.
- If you're sick, stay home, particularly if you're running a fever or sneezing or coughing a lot.