How to Avoid Getting Colds and Flu

woman in cold

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No one likes to be sick, so these tips on how to avoid getting colds and flu during winter (or any season) will hopefully be of interest to you 🙂 I should have posted this earlier on, but, truth be told, these practices apply year-round. When I was working in the ER, I saw lots of cold and flu patients even in the summer or “non-peak” times.

The info I am sharing here is standard healthcare wisdom. If you are familiar with my site, you know that I am also a big believer in the mental and spiritual aspects of illness. I encourage you to consider these factors while also using these largely common-sense practices to stay well. Don’t buy into the hype about it being the season for colds and assume you’ll get sick. 😛

Here’s the short list of the tips, followed by a bit more information below.

How to Improve Your Chances of Avoiding Cold and Flu This Season

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Boost your immune system
  3. Keep your distance

Implement these tips on how to stay healthy and how to avoid getting colds and flu and set a goal of avoiding getting ill this winter!

Wash Your Hands. Good Hand Hygiene is Your Best Line of Defense Against Cold and Flu

In this modern age, it’s interesting to note that one of the best defenses against illness–the best way to avoid getting colds or flu– is something very simple. Something moms have been reminding their kids to do for generations 🙂 Wash your hands! Yep. The simple act of washing your hands frequently with soap and hot water limits the spread of cold and flu viruses and your chance of coming down with them.

Get in the habit of washing your hands whenever you’ve been out in public, and whenever you can throughout the workday. Wash them before you eat or drink. If access to soap and water is an issue, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer–there are so many to choose from!

Hand hygiene is important because your hands are the most common path through which you contract a virus. Having someone cough or sneeze in your face might be your biggest concern, but your chances of getting the flu or coming down with the common cold is more likely to be due to contact with a handrail or doorknob or shopping cart ( use the sanitizing wipes available at most stores now to wipe off your cart).

As you go about your day, you touch a LOT of things 🙂 Whatever was on these items is now on your hands. By itself, this isn’t a big problem. Viruses can’t enter through the skin.

The problem arises when you touch your face. You might not think you touch your face a lot, but you likely do it more than you are aware of 🙂 Your face has several areas with mucous membranes–your eyes, your nose, your mouth–and THAT’s what a virus needs to gain access. If the virus makes it to a mucous membrane in any of those areas, it’s right where it wants to be.

Now you can see why it’s important to wash your hands. It isn’t just something that healthcare professionals tell you to do to make you feel better about having some power to stay well. 🙂 It is your best line of defense. So, what are you waiting for? Go wash your hands! Now! 😉

(This nifty Force of Nature Sanitizing system uses just water, salt and vinegar to create an industrial strength disinfectant! Not sure if it can be used on hands ? but certainly good for surfaces)

How to Help Prevent the Spread of Corona Virus

info from the CDC

Boost Your Immune System

Maybe the best way to avoid getting colds or flu lies in having a healthy immune system. So, having a healthy immune system is worth a bit of effort. Most of us want to and/or have to get “out there” in the world–shopping, school, errands, travel. And so we will be exposed to various people that might be sick. But having a healthy immune system means we are less likely to succumb. Here are three simple and common sense things you can do daily to strengthen your immune system.

Eat a healthy diet

All systems of your body work best when they are properly nourished. Eating a healthy diet is not complicated, but it can be hard given all the bad choices that are readily available! If you know your diet needs improvement, don’t despair. Start small.

Two things to focus on are eating less sugar and eating less processed foods. Have an apple instead of a candy bar when you need a snack. Fix some scrambled eggs instead of pouring a bowl of cereal in the morning. Skip the fast food burger and fix a salad to take to lunch. You get the idea.

Next, focus on adding more fresh fruits and vegetables. Make a salad a regular side dish. Consider trying to eat more food high in vitamin C–citrus fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale are good options. Try new things. A new piece of produce, a new healthy recipe, a new way to cook your favorite foods in a healthier way.

Experiment and don’t be surprised if your tastes change over time. A baked sweet potato will start to taste better while soggy burgers will start to lose their appeal. I remember being surprised as an adult that I liked guacamole when I hadn’t liked it as a kid 😛 At first, these changes may feel like a chore, but over time, your tastes will change and you will feel satisfied with your healthier choices 🙂

Get Some Exercise

Regular exercise strengthens your body and therefore your immune system. Getting outside to exercise is always good too. Something as simple as a daily walk can help you stay well and strengthen your body. It has the added benefit of helping you to de-stress. And, as you probably know, you’re more likely to get sick when you are stressed out. So exercise daily to destress and stay well.

By the way, exercise does NOT have to be in the form of a structured routine. Part of why we need to be more conscious of our activity level and sometimes adopt routines is simply because we have become less active day to day due to technological wonders 🙂 There are ways to simply move more and have that be enough for general health purposes.

Make Time for Sleep

This last tip on how to avoid getting cold and flu is easy to gloss over, yet it is vital to giving your immune system a great boost. As with washing your hands, it’s something pretty common sense: Get enough sleep. While you are asleep, your immune system works more efficiently at producing antibodies and deploying them throughout the body to fight the infection.

Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Practice good sleep hygiene. What the heck is sleep hygiene? It simply means practicing habits that are conducive to getting the rest you need.

Things like:

  • turning off your phone and other screens a few hours before bed (or at least using the evening settings)
  • keeping your bedroom calm, quiet, and at a temperature that encourages sleep
  • establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine

In addition to helping to boost your immune system, you’ll enjoy more energy each day. Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to burn the candles from both ends. Use it as motivation to stay home and take a nap instead of heading into work when you’re coming down with something. Don’t tell your boss I told you to do this 😛 Or do! Educate him/her!

Avoid Getting Sick by Keeping Your Distance

This last tip on how to avoid getting colds and flu is not completely within your control, so just do what you can–no stress 🙂 As I have mentioned, as a nurse I was exposed to a lot of sick people, but rarely got sick. Still, it’s good advice to implement when you can.

As much as possible, keep your distance from people who are coughing and sneezing. Turns out that the average cold or flu virus only travels about six feet through the air. That means if you can keep a little bit of distance between yourself and anyone that looks like they are sick, you improve your chances of staying healthy.

My mom taught me this one–spread the word (not the germs)!

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Sometimes you end up stuck in meetings with sick coworkers who didn’t stay home (and who have never seen the YouTube video above). Or you have to brave public transportation.

Or worst of all, you have to wait in a doctor’s waiting room or hospital. Wearing a mask and washing your hands will help. If possible, create that six feet of distance I mentioned earlier. Move over a few seats if you can. But smile as you do so–behind your mask-ha! Don’t want to hurt people’s feelings 🙂

Encourage others to stay home when they are sick. Lead by example. Stay home from the office and avoid heading out to the store if you’re sick. If you have to venture out, keep your distance and wear a mask. Don’t sneeze or cough into your hands. Maybe if you model the sleeve-sneeze it’ll catch on 😉

Keep hand sanitizer in your purse or pocket and use it before touching common use items like the keypad at the grocery store, for example. Keep your kids home from school.

Share all of these tips with friends and family. Consider it your PSA for the greater good 🙂

I will leave you with a little germ humor. 🙂 And a reminder that your mind and thoughts about your susceptibility to illness matter. Remember, I worked in an ER for 10 years, and raised three kids…just because you are around sick people does not always mean you will get sick! 🙂

Only 99.9%??

About Cate

I am a retired RN–stayed home after my second child was born, having worked for 10 years. I am in my mid-50s now, and I enjoy blogging, designing mugs and more and spreading a bit of positivity in the world.

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