Cold and Flu Prevention Tips For Winter Months

Colds and flu are expensive: a study last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine determined the cost to be as much as $40 billion per year. And that doesn't take into consideration the toll colds and flu take on production across the country.

In a recent survey, conducted for Kimberly-Clark Professional, 66 percent of people feared the flu most and 14 percent worried about getting the common cold. SARS and the Norwalk virus - last year's big health news stories - barely registered.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer these suggestions to help keep flu and cold germs at bay:

  • Avoid close contact. Try to avoid people who are sick. Remember your mother's advice and wash your hands. Frequent hand washing with soap and water will help protect you from germs. Wash hands for 15-20 seconds. Alcohol-based gels or hand rubs may also be used.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Illnesses can be spread when someone touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Wash up after touching surfaces touched by others. Some viruses and bacteria can live from 20 minutes to 2 hours or more on surfaces like telephones, doorknobs and desks.
  • Use a towel to shut faucets and grab bathroom door handles after hand washing. That way you won't be touching potentially contaminated surfaces with clean hands.
  • Don't share food and drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest. The more rested you are, the better your ability to fight off infections.

CDC also offers some "respiratory etiquette" tips for keeping your germs to yourself:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • After you use a tissue, throw it out. The germs will go with it.
  • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. That way you won't spread germs when you touch things with your hands.
  • Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing. Use soap and water or clean with an alcohol-based waterless hand cleanser.
  • Ask for a mask at the doctor's office if you have a respiratory illness.
  • If you can, stay home when you're sick. If you stay away from work or errands when you are sick, you will help prevent others from catching your illness.
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