(BlackDoctor.org) — If you work in an office, then there are times you’re surrounded by lots of sneezing and sniffling people — all of you sharing the same space and breathing the same air. While you may not be able to completely prevent colds and flu this time of year, practicing good hygiene and being careful to avoid cold germs may help you escape this cold and flu season.
Flu Vaccine. Getting a seasonal flu vaccine is a great way to protect yourself against the flu viruses going around each year. Head to your doctor early on in flu season (as soon as the vaccine is available) and get yourself vaccinated. It’s one of the most effective ways to prevent flu. Studies have found that in healthy adults, the flu vaccine can decrease the chances of coming down with the flu by as much as 70 percent to 90 percent. But unfortunately, the flu vaccine can’t completely prevent flu in everyone. Though there’s still a chance you could get sick, the flu vaccine can lessen the severity and duration of your symptoms.
Wash Your Hands. Another of the most effective ways to prevent colds and the flu is simply washing your hands properly and frequently. “Wash your hands a lot, and encourage those around you to wash their hands,” says Nancy Elder, MD, associate professor and director of research in the department of family and community medicine at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. This will help to get rid of cold germs you pick up from doorknobs and stair rails, and keep you from getting them into your body. One study found that college students who washed hands frequently had fewer cold and flu symptoms.
Wipe Down Germs. It’s probably common sense not to shake a sick person’s hands when you want to prevent a cold — but that’s far from the only place that you can pick up cold germs. A recent study looked for the presence of viruses on classroom surfaces and found that the flu virus was found on as many as 50 percent of surfaces. So take some time when you clean up your office or home to wipe down germy areas — light switches, doorknobs, your phone, your computer, and your TV remote — with your favorite cleaning product. Minimizing exposure to germs can help prevent colds and the flu.
Keep Your Hands Off Your Face. Whether you’re nibbling on finger foods or you’re a nail biter, your hands have a habit of finding their way into your mouth, not to mention your nose, and eyes — all areas where germs can enter the body. And if you haven’t recently made it to a sink to scrub your hands, you’re inoculating yourself with those cold germs. To prevent cold and flu viruses, don’t touch “your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands,” says Dr. Elder. And “encourage others not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with their hands — this is how germs get inside you” to grow into an upper respiratory infection. That will also help prevent cold and flu viruses from spreading.
Hydrate. General good health practices keep your body strong and ready to fend off cold germs and the flu virus. And that includes drinking plenty of water. In fact, one recent study found that staying hydrated may boost a particular immune response to enable your body to better fight the viruses. Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of fluids, especially water, and by avoiding caffeinated drinks. Shoot for six to eight glasses of water per day, more if the weather is hot, says Elder.