This is the time of year when colds and the flu run like wildfire through relatives, friends, and coworkers as germs are passed from one person to the next. But taking a few simple precautions can keep you from becoming a victim.
The viruses that cause the common cold and the flu are spread in several ways, the most obvious being human contact. So obviously one of the easiest ways to keep from getting sick is to avoid being in contact with anyone who is sick. Even if you encounter someone in a store who is sneezing or coughing, you’d do well to turn around and walk down a different aisle just to avoid breathing in germs that person might be coughing into the air. And no matter how much you love someone and want to tend to them when they’re sick, don’t kiss them to make them feel better!
Keep a Distance from Infected People
Human contact is not the only way you can catch a cold or the flu. In fact, an easier and more prevalent way to pick up germs has nothing to do with being near someone who is coughing or sneezing. Cold and flu viruses can live for hours on the fingers of sick people, but they can live for days on any other surface those fingers might have touched.
For example, in the office there are hundreds of places germs can take up residence-door handles, computer keyboards, telephones, file cabinets, and any other surface shared by more than one person. Luckily there is a simple and quick way to prevent those germs from accumulating. A study released recently by UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, showed that using disinfectant wipes can help.
“All you need to do is apply the disinfectant wipe across the keys for approximately 5 seconds,” said Dr. William Rutala, director of UNC Hospitals’ epidemiology department. Rutala’s study found that wiping keyboard keys with a disinfectant wipe for just 5 seconds was 95-100% effective in getting rid of germs.
Tried and Tested Remedy
However, Rutala said, no disinfectant in the world can replace the benefits of good old-fashioned hand washing, which is one of the best ways to avoid spreading germs. Experts recommend using an antibacterial soap and water as hot as you can stand it.
If you do get sick, there are a couple of important things to remember to help ensure that you don’t infect anyone else. Most importantly, cover your sneezes and coughs, but not with your hands-sneeze into your bent arm or elbow instead. Better yet, stay home if you’re sick, especially if you’re coughing or sneezing.
Most adults can expect to get anywhere from two to four colds before warmer weather arrives, although young adults and children may get as many as 10 colds each year. The flu, however, is more elusive, striking only about 5-20% of people each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the flu is much more serious than the common cold, and can lead to complications such as pneumonia and dehydration.
The bottom line is that you should give colds and flu the respect they deserve. Stay away from people who are sick, be sure to wash your hands frequently, and deodorize surfaces sick people may have touched. Most importantly, if you do get sick, stay home! Not only will staying home give you the rest you need to recover more quickly, it will keep you out of the office while you’re contagious, so your bug won’t spread. If you can make it through cold season to spring, then you’ll be home free-at least for a few months until the season comes around again. In the meantime, wash your hands!