It’s that time of year again. Your office has been taken over by the harmonious sound of coughing and trumpet- like nose blowing. Once again you find yourself hiding in your cubicle, feeling Closter-phobic in a germ-infested world. Don’t worry you are not alone, in fact last year in the U.S. Americans suffered from more than 1 billion cases of the cold and flu. It was the most common cause of work and school absenteeism, and more than 22 million days are lost each year in the U.S.
The “common cold” is most often caused by viral infections. Tiny droplets of mucus that enter the air when the infected persons sneeze or cough spread over 200 different viruses from person to person. Others can then inhale the droplets within a 5-foot radius. Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes can also spread the cold virus.
Believe it or not there are many simple things you can do to avoid becoming one of the billion miserable statistics or 22 million sick days each year. Here are the top 10 things you can do to avoid the cold and flu!
- Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Hands, And Wash Your Hands Again!
Hand washing is the golden rule and the single most effective way to avoid contact with the cold and flu virus. When washing your hands use warm water and plenty of soap. Be sure to scrub your hands together for 20-30 seconds (as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.) Antibacterial sanitizers should be used when there is no access to soap or water. When drying your hands avoid towels found hanging in kitchens and bathrooms. Use disposable towels to dry your hands, turn off faucets and hold the door handles when you exit. All of these methods will limit your exposure to these germs.
- Be Kind to Yourself. Eat well, Rest, and Exercise.
- Eat to live. You are what you eat, so be sure to eat lean proteins and plenty of vegetables and fruits rich in antioxidants. Remember your immune system lives in you gut so keep it clean and take a pro-biotic to keep it that way!
- Rest. Your mother was right when she told you to get your rest. Sleep allows your body’s cells to repair themselves and keeps your immune system strong.
- Exercise. It’s a Proven Immunity Booster: Moderate exercise 30-60 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce risk of a cold by 30-50%. Consistency is key to this one. Make a realistic workout plan that fits into your schedule and stick to it. I can promise you will never regret a workout!
- Drink, Drink, Drink
Eight glasses of water a day is ideal, and even more important when you are sick. Drinking clear liquids in abundance helps clean your systems out up to 50% faster. No to mention dehydration can easily occur if you have a fever or are vomiting, so drink up!
- Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Avoid shaking hands with others, but if you must, be sure to follow the golden rule of washing your hands! Avoid touching your face or rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth. Remember any part of your body that has mucous membranes is an entrance for these germs. Although this seems like an obvious one, it is easier said then done.
- Stay Away Far Away!
You heard me right! Keep your distance from anyone sneezing, coughing, or blowing his or her nose. If you can’t avoid them all together then limit your exposure to them and wash your hands as soon as you are done. The same goes for you and your children. Stay home and avoid spreading your germs if you can! Don’t send your small children to daycare with a cough or a runny nose.
- You don’t have to Share!
No matter what you have been told, it’s ok be greedy on this one. Never share drinks or utensils with anyone! If the truth be told Beware of the chips and dips at parties. There may be hidden germs in the hummus or salsa dips thanks to the double-dippers finger lickers out there! While we are at it…buffets are off limits! Period!
- Don’t smoke!
We have all heard this one before! Yet another reason to quit! Smoking can irritate the airways and increase susceptibility to colds and other infections. Even exposure to second hand smoke can make you more vulnerable to colds.
- Think Disposable
- Using disposable items if you or someone you live with is infected.
- Disposable cups and dishes can be thrown away after each use.
- Paper towels will help prevent spread by sharing towels.
- Tissues should never be used twice and should be thrown away immediately after use.
- Decrease Your Stress
Studies have shown that people exposed to mental and emotional stress have elevated Cortisol levels and weakened immune systems. Those with high stress levels are twice as likely to catch a cold than others.
- Have Some Common Sense.
Unfortunately “common sense” is not all that common! Now that you know how the cold and flu virus are spread and prevented it’s time to use it! Imagine how nice it would be if everyone took extra precautions in prevention, what a germ free world it would be!