January 21, 2016

Eight ways to avoid the common cold

Sickness Prevention

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We all fall victim to the common cold now and then. However, there are a number of simple preventative measures you can take to lessen your chances of catching one. Most of them are simple acts of hygiene, avoidance, and yes, common sense. Here are eight ways to avoid catching a cold:

1. Wash your hands often

Hand washing is probably the single smartest thing you can do to avoid catching a cold -- not just after shaking someone’s hand, but as often during the course of the day as practical. All sorts of surfaces can harbor the many viruses that result in a cold. And we’re talking hot water and soap, for at least 20 seconds, not just a quick rinse under the tap.

2. Avoid touching your face

Unconsciously, most of us put our hands to our face constantly – wiping an eye, scratching a nose itch, raising a finger to our lips. During cold season and all year round for that matter, try to restrain yourself from doing this, as the cold virus is spread from individual to individual through touch as much as through mucus droplets in the air that are inhaled after someone sneezes.

3. Be scrupulous about clean surfaces

Viruses live for hours on surfaces, so a disinfectant wipe of not just kitchen countertops, tables, and sinks, but also things like cabinet door handles and pulls, light switches, TV remotes, telephones and computer keyboards really helps. And if your child has a cold, don’t forget to wash his or her toys when you’re wiping down surfaces with a disinfectant solution.

4. Think paper

It may not seem very “green,” but in cold season using disposable paper cups and paper towels rather than regular glasses and cotton towels for hand- and surface-wiping can actually dramatically cut down on the transfer of viruses among family members. Viruses thrive on dirty dishtowels. As for bathroom hand towels and bath towels, make sure each family member has his or her own towel and be sure to provide separate, dedicated towels for houseguests. And parents should avoid the temptation to share cups and utensils with young children and toddlers at mealtime.

5. Take care of yourself

The best way to not get sick is to be healthy. Proper nutrition, daily exercise, the right amount of sleep each night all contribute to your ability to fight off infection. In cold season, burning the candle at both ends, grabbing junk food on the run, and subsisting on four hours of sleep a night is virtually begging to come down with a cold.

6. Keep stress to a minimum

This is good advice generally, and for most of us it’s easier said than done considering the demands of daily life. But emotional stress levels clearly impact the immune system’s ability to fight off illness, including the virus that causes the common cold.

7. Avoid those with a cold

You don’t need to quarantine yourself during cold season, but use common sense – if a friend or relative has a cold, postpone that lunch date or family gathering until they’re feeling better. Don’t expose yourself unnecessarily. If an office-mate or cubicle neighbor is sneezing and coughing and hasn’t sensibly called in sick, try to steer clear of contact, particularly in the first three days of his or her illness.

8. Teach children healthy habits

Children are virtual cold-spreading machines. Teach your kids to always sneeze or cough into tissues (not germ-laden old-fashioned cotton hankies), and then to throw those tissues away immediately and to wash their hands. Show them how to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow if a tissue isn’t handy.

There are dozens of other things that can contribute to halting the spread of colds, including laundering household bedding and linens with bleach. However, these common-sense “first steps” can go a long way in helping to ensure a healthy cold and flu season for you and your family.