Author: Dr. Russ Greenfield, Medical Director
That dreaded time of year is almost upon us, and no, we don’t mean the holiday shopping season. Alas, with the holidays and the cold weather comes flu season, putting everyone at risk for the fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and muscle aches that signal its return.
The flu virus is highly contagious, and can be easily spread through the air when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes. Even touching a doorknob or handrail contaminated with the virus can transmit the flu if you touch the surface and then your mouth, nose or eyes.
In addition to doling out misery, the flu can be quite dangerous, particularly for the more vulnerable among us, such as young children or older adults, so it is important to protect yourself and your loved ones in all the ways you can.
While getting a flu shot each year is Step One, there are many other ways to avoid getting and/or spreading the flu:
- Keep hands and surfaces clean. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based rub to clean your hands, and sanitize surfaces that may harbor the virus. In between hand washings, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands. See here for the Center for Disease Control’s tips on when and how to wash your hands effectively.
- Avoid close contact with sick people. Keeping space between you and someone with the flu can help avoid transmission. This works both ways, though, so do your best to stay home from work or school if you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose. When you cough or sneeze, protect yourself and others by covering your mouth and nose, and then be sure to wash your hands.
- Watch out for filthy fabrics: In addition to surfaces commonly associated with carrying germs such as the bathroom and kitchen, there are many sneaky spots where you can pick up unwanted germs. Be sure to wash commonly used fabrics such as reusable grocery bags and bedding in bleach and hot water, and wash your hands after touching fabric surfaces such as airplane and movie seats.
- Practice good personal health and hygiene habits. In addition to regularly cleaning yourself and your home, keep yourself healthy and help your immune system fight off germs by getting enough sleep, managing stress and staying hydrated.
Hopefully with these tips in mind, you’ll enjoy the winter months flu-free!