‘Tis the season – for drinking hot chocolate, building snowmen and… getting sick? Unfortunately, yes. During colder months especially, when windows are shut and fresh air is less readily available, germs really circulate. However, there are several effective ways to minimize the spread of illness.
First Line of Defense: Clean Hands
Think about how many public surfaces you touch every day. Doorknobs, gas pumps and railings are all teeming with bacteria. And your children probably come into contact with even more—albeit different—germ-ridden surfaces, like shared toys at day care and desks at school. The bacteria from all of these surfaces spread easily, and when regular hand-washing doesn’t take place, colds, flu and other sicknesses can be the result.
That’s why hand-washing is so important in stopping the spread of germs. Hand washing throughout the day, and particularly before eating, is one of the most effective ways to keep yourself and your family healthy. Adopting this simple habit (for both you and your children) can have a tremendous impact on your health.
The Right Way to Wash Your Hands
For hand-washing to be effective in the fight against germs, it must be done often – and properly. A quick rinse under cold water will not do the trick. Rub your hands together with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. (To help the little ones, teach them to sing a song while they wash their hands – no stopping until the song is over!) Be sure to clean the backs of your hands and wrists, as well. Rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean paper towel.
If a sink is unavailable, use a waterless hand sanitizer. Be sure that the hand sanitizer you use contains an alcohol concentration of between 60 and 95 percent. Anything below that is virtually ineffective at killing bacteria.
Keep Work Spaces as Clean as Possible
At work, aim to wipe down your personal areas with sanitizing wipes daily – areas like your desktop, keyboard and telephone. While you may be the only person using these objects, germs can still settle there. Additionally, after touching shared objects such as fax machines, copiers, and doorknobs, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
Boost Your Immune System
The lack of fresh air isn’t the only thing that makes winter such a popular time for illness; it can also be brought about by the fact that we tend to put our healthiest habits on hold during the holiday season. Poor eating habits, a lack of sleep and stress can make your body more susceptible to illness. So, amidst your busy holiday schedules, parties and gatherings, aim to maintain a balanced diet and get enough sleep. The healthier you are, the easier it will be for you to stave off illness.
Get Your Shot
Although there is no vaccine for the common cold, there is one for the flu. So, the very best way to avoid getting this particular illness is to get an annual flu shot. It is appropriate for just about anyone aged six months and older, so check with your doctor and arrange to get one if you have not already. Typically, flu shots are fully covered by CDPHP and most other insurances. (And many participating provider offices and pharmacies offer flu shot clinics to make it more convenient to get one at a day and time that works for you!)
Be Smart about Being Sick
Of course, all the hand-washing and immune boosters in the world can’t prevent all illness, all the time. So if you do start to feel yourself getting sick, reduce the spread of germs by minimizing your direct contact with the people around you. If possible, stay home from work when you’re ill, and keep your children home from school when they’re sick. Also, when sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, and immediately dispose of it. This will cut down on the spread of airborne germs.
Winter doesn’t have to spell disaster for your health. And if you can follow these tips and tricks, you’ll have the best shot at a winter of wellness.