Getting a cold or the flu is not only annoying but it can also impair your ability to work and take care of your family. While there is no way to completely prevent getting sick, there are some things you can do to drastically reduce the risk. Follow these 5 tips to avoid getting the sniffles (or something worse) during this winter’s flu season.

1. Avoid Contact with Sick People
Colds and the flu spread between people via a number of different methods. Avoiding close contact with sick people can help you avoid exposure through several avenues. Try to stay far enough away that you do not get coughed or sneezed on and avoid touching someone who is sick whenever possible. Most people who are ill harbor the virus on their hands and can easily pass it on to you. If you are spending time with people who are ill, make distance the rule and wave or smile instead of shaking hands.

2. Wash Your Hands
Most people know that washing their hands regularly is an important part of staying healthy. During the cold and flu season, this is even more important because these viruses can live long enough on surfaces for you to pick them up on your hands. Wash your hands using warm water and soap and make sure to scrub gently. Antibacterial soap is not necessary and has no extra effect on cold and flu viruses but hand sanitizers do kill these germs and can be useful if there is no place available to wash your hands.

3. Avoid Touching Your Face
Many people get the cold or flu virus on their hands but this does not necessarily mean they will get sick. The virus needs somewhere where it can get into your system and the skin on most of your body is a pretty good barrier against entry. The eyes, mouth and nose are common entry points because the mucus membranes allow viruses to enter your body more easily and humans tend to touch their faces a lot. Being mindful of when you touch your face and washing your hands before you do so can help you avoid getting a cold or the flu this season.

4. Support Your Health
People who are healthier tend to get sick less often. Eating regular, healthy meals and getting plenty of sleep can help your body fight off any viruses that make their way to you so that you don’t wind up getting sick. Stress can also make people vulnerable to illness. So if you worry too much, it is important to try to take the time to manage your stress level. Other ways to support your overall health include being physically active and drinking plenty of water.

5. Stay Home When You are Sick
Everyone needs to work together in order to prevent spreading illnesses. Stay home when you are sick and encourage others to do the same. Support policies at work and school that allow people to stay home without being penalized. When everyone works together the spread of colds and flu can be curtailed even in traditionally high-risk areas such as offices and schools.

So, in order to stay healthy this cold and flu season, avoid contact with sick people and make sure to wash your hands regularly. Maintain good health by exercising, eating well and managing your stress levels. Help discourage the spread of colds and flu by supporting programs that allow people who are sick to stay home. A bit of extra effort can help you avoid getting sick this year.

Author:  Michelle Holincheck, FNP

For more cold and flu information, visit Careworks.