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Autumn is a beautiful time of year, especially here in Upstate NY. Pumpkin patches, hot chocolate, apple cider, all of the sweet and delicious treats that this season brings are now in full swing. Unfortunately, so are cold and flu germs. They are those little buggers who are not invited to the party, but show up anyway, unannounced of course.
While germs abound, sometimes it's inevitable that they will take up residence inside of your home and invade your health. In fact, most people develop at least two colds a year, and 1 in 5 people come down with the flu. However, all hope is not lost. If you take the right steps, you can beat those odds!
Here are 7 things that you can do to avoid the cold and flu germs that like to keep you down!
You are most likely to come down with a cold or flu between the months of September and May, so it's important to be extra careful during those months, especially if you're older than 65, have an ongoing health condition, take any medicine that affects your immune system, or if you're around children younger than 2 years old.
The flu hits those groups the hardest. Time your flu vaccination correctly to make it more effective. It takes two weeks for the protection to start, so get vaccinated in the early fall, before flu season begins. The vaccine won't stop you from catching a cold, but it does guard against the flu strains that are expected to be common that year. If you do get sick with the flu, the vaccine can make your symptoms more mild than if you don't vaccinate.
2. Keep Your Distance
Cold and flu germs pass through the air from person to person, and when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks, tiny drops of mucus hit the air. You can take them in through your mouth or nose. Those droplets can spread out to about 6 feet, so if you can, keep your distance.
3. Wash Your Hands!
Cleaning your hands is the most crucial aspect of staying healthy. Using warm water and soap, scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after you've been in a crowded area, such as a school, mall, or office, where you can easily come into contact with someone who is sick.
Another critical aspect if you want to stay healthy. Flu germs can live on hard surfaces, such as doorknobs, keyboards, shopping carts, and light switches for up to 8 hours. Some viruses that cause the common cold can survive on surfaces - even ones that have been cleaned - for months.
If you touch something that a sick person has coughed or sneezed on, and then put your fingers near your eyes, nose, mouth, or anywhere on your face, you're likely to get sick too. This is basic hygiene, but it is easy to forget as you go through the hustle and bustle of the day.
5. Fill Up on Antioxidants & Other Nutrients
Take care of yourself every day to help your body fight off cold and flu germs. You'll want to get enough rest, exercise, and to stay at a healthy weight. Stick to a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to small amounts, and if you smoke, know that smoking can make flu and cold symptoms much worse.
If you're unsure about what foods to eat during this season, you can never go wrong with the basic fruits and veggies. Broccoli, spinach, blueberries, pineapple, and banana's are just a few of the many fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants. Another tip: Zinc is your friend. Eat foods that are rich in Zinc, or at the first sign of a cold, begin taking Zinc tablets, such as Cold-Eeze.
6. Moisten the Air
If the air in your home or workplace is very dry, flu germs will stick around longer. Run a humidifier to make it harder for illness to spread. The moist air causes airborne germs to drop to the floor, where they're less likely to infect you.
7. Keep Towels Separate
If you wouldn't share a tissue with someone, don't share a towel. It's easy to forget that bathroom towels harbor germs too. When someone in your home has the flu, put out an extra hand towel for others to use, or use paper towels.
These are just some of the ways to protect yourself and your family members from the cold and flu this season. Remember to stay conscious about the environment around you. Sneeze into a tissue - not your hands, or sneeze/cough into your arm to prevent the spread of germs. If you are sick, stay home. Don't risk getting others infected, and don't compromise your immune system any more than necessary. Always see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms, as they may have medicine to help manage the symptoms. Stay healthy, friends!