Ways to Stay Flu-Free

Work parties, family get-togethers, fun with friends; the holidays are not the time you want to be sick with flu. Yet because of all the personal contact with friends, family, co-workers and fellow shoppers, it's the time of year when you likely might be exposed to the flu.

A cold can strike any time, but October to March is flu season. Here are some tips that can help you stay healthy this holiday and flu season:

1. Cough into your sleeve – If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, be sure to cough in your sleeve or the inside of your sweater or jacket to avoid spreading germs. A cough or sneeze can contaminate the air and surfaces with virus up to several feet away.

2. Wash your hands – Germs on the hands can spread to every door knob, hand rail, telephone, remote control, keyboard, etc. Wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading germs or picking up germs from others.

3. Do the air kiss – Greet your family and friends by giving them a hug and kissing the air near their cheek. If there’s mistletoe dangling between you and a friend, eschew the smack on the lips with a fake peck on the cheek instead.

4. Don't use your fingers – As a party guest, use serving spoons or forks to put food on your plate instead of just reaching for it. As a party host, be sure to put out plenty of serving utensils and provide people with alternatives to reaching into bowls, such as creating individual servings of your offerings.

5. Get creative with your cups – When hosting a party, come up with fun ways of personalizing cups so there aren't any mix-ups. Avoid serving beverages in their original containers for the same reason, so there aren't multiple identical cans or bottles floating around.

6. Carry hand sanitizer with you – Remember: the last person to touch that doorknob, faucet, shopping cart handle or handrail may have the flu. Viruses can survive hours or even days on surfaces. If there isn't a place to wash your hands nearby, use alcohol gel to sanitize your hands before you eat any food or touch your face, particularly your nose or mouth. Keep some in your purse or pocket for those holiday shopping excursions.

8. Get enough sleep – Lack of sleep weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to illness. Aim for a consistent 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night, even during the busy season of shopping, planning and entertaining.

9. If you're sick, stay home – If you feel like you are coming down with a cold or flu, stay at home until you feel better. It's the best present you can give your family and friends.

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