Cold and flu season usually reaches its peak in February, and March is a high-risk month as well. Here is a handy guide to help you fight back!
Regular Hand Washing
Did you know that the influenza virus can survive on many surfaces for up to 48 hours? This is why hand washing is your first and best defense. Doctors wash their hands on average 40 to 50 times a day! While this may be excessive for the rest of us, it tells us that washing really works!
- Use warm water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- Use a fresh paper towel to dry your hands and then to turn off the faucet.
- Use the towel to open the bathroom door, especially in public places, and discard.
- Wash your hands immediately when you enter your home.
- Wash your hands after handling money or close contact with others (hand shaking).
Your Face is a No-Touch Zone
Your eyes, nose and mouth are an open door for harmful bacteria and viruses, courtesy of your hands. Keep them separated.
- When eating, always use a spoon or fork, or wrap your sandwich in a paper towel.
- If you need to sneeze or cough, use a tissue or paper towel as a barrier and discard. (And then wash again!)
Disinfecting is Essential
All surfaces should be regularly cleaned and disinfected, especially the most commonly used ones. While some are obvious, many go unnoticed. Use an alcohol or bleach based disinfectant on:
- Computer keyboards/tablets (no bleach on tablets)
- Pens, pencils, etc.
- Credit cards and discount cards
- Steering wheels
- Refrigerator handles
- Remote controls
- Light switches
- Sink and bath handles
- Toys (disinfect stuffed toys with an alcohol spray and freeze for 48 hours)
- Bottles of lotion
Exercise for Immune Health
20-30 minutes of daily exercise does wonders for your immune system. And any time spent outdoors gives an additional boost as well. If you are already feeling an illness coming on, according to experts the general rule is that exercise is okay if your symptoms are above the neck. If you have a fever of 100 degrees or higher, a cough or chills, you should be resting.
Leave Shoes at the Door
Our shoes are carriers of an untold number of bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants. Try to keep them from leaving the entry area of your home and ask your guests to do the same. Keep a basket of cheap slippers to offer guests.
Stay hydrated and eat plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables with every meal. This gives your body the best possible chance to fight off an exposure.
It goes without saying, but you should strictly avoid sharing things like drinks and chapstick. Large packs of chapstick, paper cups and travel sized lotions can often be useful.
While there is no professional consensus on the effectiveness of herbal remedies, many continue to advise taking them for sustained immune health. Always check with your doctor before taking a new herbal supplement to avoid the risk of cross-medication reactions! The most commonly recommended remedies are:
- Echinacea and Goldenseal – teas or pills
- Zinc (May also lessen severity and shorten duration of an illness)
- Vitamin C (Increase daily dose after exposure to physical or environmental stress)
Studies are increasingly showing acupuncture to be beneficial to immune health. Acupuncture may help the brain increase the body’s level of T-cells, which are responsible for destroying bacteria and viruses in the body.
Get the Flu Vaccine
As always, the CDC recommends an annual influenza vaccine for everyone over the age of 6 months, especially the pregnant and elderly. An infant under six months is extremely susceptible to symptoms, and the CDC urges anyone caring for an infant to be vaccinated.
–Be vigilant and take good care of yourselves!