Every day we inch closer to winter is another day closer to the peak of flu season. Getting an influenza vaccine goes a long way, particularly for those like the elderly, health care workers and pregnant women, who are more at risk of developing serious complications from the virus; and for caregivers of infants younger than 6 months, who are also at a high risk but are too young to receive their own vaccine. However, lifestyle measures also help prevent the spread of the flu and even the common cold.
Stop with the close contact
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that effort goes both ways: People should work to avoid catching the flu and also work to avoid transmitting it to someone else. To that end, they can duck sick people, but equally as important they should stay home when they themselves feel sick. How many people actually use their sick days when they are ill? A lot just tough it out at work when they have a cold, but staying home and limiting contact with other people can stop the spread of this virus in its tracks. The CDC recommends staying home for at least a day after your fever is gone.
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Wash hands often – with soap – or use an alcohol-based hand cleanser, and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated. This is key for ridding objects and body parts of germs even if you don’t appear sick. “Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick,” the CDC says. “Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.”
This lifestyle habit is particularly healthy after using the bathroom. Feces can spread certain respiratory infections, as well as other germs and dangerous bacteria. But pooping isn’t the only toilet action that necessitates handwashing; it should also follow a simple pee. Unfortunately, the Huffington Post has reported that men, especially ones who only handled their own body parts at urinals and did no wiping, are more likely than women to leave the bathroom without making a pitstop at the sink. “Many men suggested that unless they had a bowel movement, there would be no need for washing their hands,” Michigan State University professor Carl P. Borchgrevink, who authored a study on the subject, told that publication.
Cough and sneeze the right way
Lots of people throw their hands in front of their noses and mouths when they feel a sneeze coming on. Not sneezing or coughing right into the air is a good start, but there should be a tissue in those hands, the CDC says, which should promptly go into the trash afterward. After sneezing into your hands, anything you touch becomes infected with the germs you just expelled. They can even get into food and “multiply in some types of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick. Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, table tops, or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.” In a pinch without a tissue, the crook of your elbow will do.
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Germs spread when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth and then another surface, the CDC warns. But there are more ways than that to spread germs from your mouth, many of which involve common habits people fall into at home and at work. Biting nails or fingers, using your teeth to open a package instead of scissors and chewing on pens are all unhygienic and increase the risk of spreading an illness to others.
Above all else, see a doctor if you spot symptoms of the flu, like a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffed nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea.