7 Habits That Keep Colds and Flu at Bay

Reduce your chances of getting sick this season

Swab down surfaces. “A quick swipe with an antimicrobial wipe first thing in the morning over your desk surface, phone, keyboard and mouse is a good idea, especially if they’re items shared by coworkers,” says Dr. Stream. “Since we shed viruses before we even show symptoms, it’s a simple precautionary measure even when no one at work seems ill.” At the grocery store, use wipes to clean off shopping cart handles. When flying, carry wipes to clean arm rests, the call button and fold-down tray.

Don’t get complacent at home. “We tend to let our guards down at home, but it’s a primary place where illnesses are spread,” says Dr. Reynolds. “We’re in closer contact, we spend more time here, and we may not disinfect surfaces as often as we should because we think of them as ‘our germs.’” But you and the kids can easily bring home and transfer germs to household surfaces, such as door knobs, faucets, remote controls, computer keyboards, or the refrigerator handle, where someone in the family may pick them up later. So clean these areas regularly (daily if someone in the household is ill).

Use the right stuff. Not just any cleaning product will do the job, says Dr. Reynolds. If you want to kill disease-causing germs, you need disinfectants, which are registered by the EPA, ensuring they’re effective. Look for the EPA-registration number in tiny print on the label, and follow product instructions.

Be good to yourself. “Exercise, get enough sleep and eat right to keep your immune system strong,” says Dr. Stream. It’s also a good time to kick the tobacco smoking habit. Smoking increases your risk of getting sick because it causes structural changes in the respiratory tract and impairs your immune system. Even secondhand smoke increases your risk of infections. Finally, don’t forget to get your flu shot—it’s effective prevention, and you can get it any time throughout the flu season. Ask your doctor whether the H1N1 flu shot is appropriate for you as well.

Reviewed By: Timothy Yarboro, M.D.

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