10 Tips for Preventing Colds and Flu

During a typical year, 5-20% of Americans get the flu, according to the National Institutes of Health. Viruses that cause colds and flu spread easily from person to person, so it’s important to protect yourself and your family in any way you can.

It’s common knowledge that handwashing is the best way to prevent spreading cold and flu viruses. Using hot, soapy water and scrubbing for 20 seconds is ideal. For added protection, check out these other simple strategies that may help you fend off colds and flu.

Disinfect germ hot spots often. Studies show viruses survive 24-48 hours on hard surfaces, such as plastic or metal. Use alcohol wipes to clean phones, remotes, keyboards, doorknobs, light switches, faucet handles, microwave buttons, and other shared gadgets. Clean your cellphone often, too.

Clean the grocery cart handle before you touch it. It sounds simple, but how many of us pull a cart from the row, then wheel it over to the sanitizing wipes station? Instead, grab a wipe first, and take it with you to get your cart.

Don’t share toothpaste. When we’re squeezing toothpaste onto the toothbrush, the tip of the tube often touches the brush. Family togetherness doesn’t need to include sharing toothbrush germs, so every family member should have a separate tube.

The way you store your toothbrushes matters, too. Stash toothbrushes in separate drawers or plastic containers so they’re covered or keep them in each person’s bedroom.

Dry your hands on separate towels. Although viruses don’t survive as long on soft, porous surfaces, such as tissues and fabric, cloth towels get used frequently enough to contain viable viruses and bacteria. Using paper towels or your own bath towel for drying your hands might be a better bet.

Bring your own pen. Stash a pen in your purse or pocket to use at the bank or anywhere else you need to sign with a pen. You can even use the end of your pen to push buttons at the ATM or grocery store.

Stop touching everything. When you’re out and about, be cognizant of what you touch. If you don’t need to hold on to the railings on stairs or escalators, then don’t. Push elevator buttons with your elbow or a pen and avoid public water fountains. Wash your hands – or use sanitizer – after touching money or gas pump handles.

Get enough vitamin D. Low blood levels of vitamin D make you more susceptible to getting upper respiratory tract infections, including colds and flu. Only a few foods are naturally high in vitamin D, including egg yolks, salmon, and mushrooms. Foods fortified with vitamin D include yogurt and milk and some cereals and orange juices. If you aren’t sure you’re getting enough, talk with your doctor about checking your levels or taking a vitamin D supplement.

Sleep! Our bodies need a certain amount of sleep, seven to nine hours for adults, to function properly. When you’re sleep-deprived, immune function suffers, so you’re less able to fight off cold and flu viruses.

Cut back on sugar. Consuming too much sugar suppresses your immune function, so you’re more likely to get sick. Research shows that the bacteria-killing ability of white blood cells is diminished for up to five hours after you eat sweets or drink a sugary beverage.

Get your flu shot. This preventive step is easy and fast. It takes about two weeks after you get the shot for your body to build up antibodies against the flu viruses, so getting the flu shot in the fall is your best bet.

Sometimes even the best prevention fails though, and you end up with an upper respiratory illness. If you’re around Melbourne, Florida, and need medical care, stop in to see us at DOCCS for an urgent care visit, or call or click to make an appointment.

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