Does it feel like everyone is getting sick? It’s not just in your head. Flu and cold season generally peaks between December to February. From your kids to your coworkers, to that guy coughing his head off on the subway, germs seem to be flying around the air wherever you go.
While the flu shot is still your best bet to avoid getting the flu, it isn’t 100% effective and it doesn’t give you any protection against colds. Fortunately, there are things you can do to stay healthy this season… some of which may surprise you!
Wash Your Hands… The Right Way!
We all know how important hand-washing is in illness protection. Regular hand washing can cut your risk of getting sick by up to 20%. But it turns out how you wash your hands is almost as important as if you wash them. And, 95% of us aren’t doing it right.
The CDC recommends following these 5 steps every single time you use the restroom, handle food, touch animals, care for someone who is sick or injured, or blow your nose.
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Stop Touching Your Face!
Researchers in Brazil noted that people touch their faces an average of 3.6 times per hour, and common objects an average of 3.3 times per hour. The study showed that this rate of self-touching means that people likely get germs on their hands much more frequently than they wash them off. And, every time people touch their mouth or nose, they transfer bacteria and viruses between their face and their hands, which is a primary way germs get spread.
An important step in avoiding illness is to be extra mindful of washing your hands before touching your face, especially during cold and flu season.
Get More Sleep Than You Think You Need!
No matter how often you wash your hands or how well you avoid touching your face, it’s likely that you will still come in contact with cold and flu germs. But… here’s the thing… we all touch contaminated surfaces, but we don’t all get sick. Sometimes the difference between getting sick and staying healthy is just a few hours of sleep.
A recent study showed that, amongst adults exposed to a cold virus, those who averaged five or six hours nightly were four times more likely to catch a cold than people who slept at least seven hours per night. Turns out sleeping extra during the long, dark nights of winter isn’t just comforting, it may actually keep you healthier.
Among the many benefits of exercise is that it gives your body an immune boost. Just 30-60 minutes a day of moderate-intensity movement such as walking or biking can reduce your chances of getting a cold by almost half. Why? Scientists discovered that increased circulation from exercise gets white blood cells moving around the body to help fight off infections.
Clean A Little Bit More
While a messy home is not any more likely to make you ill, a germy one might. Disinfecting heavily used objects such as TV remotes, doorknobs and cell phones can make a big difference in cold and flu prevention. This is especially important if someone has recently been sick, since the flu virus can live on hard surfaces for 24 hours.