Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season: Is it Possible?

Sloane Miller Health Guide
  • Let me start by saying that I am not a germ-aphobe.


    Not really.


    Let's say, I'm germ conscious. As anyone with asthma knows, we're vulnerable. As someone with asthma, a cold can easily spiral into a nasty bronchitis, so I'm extra careful during cold and flu season.


    Extra, extra careful.


    If that means not shaking a few hands at a holiday party, so be it. If you're a sneezing mess, please don't lean in to kiss me goodbye. If you're hacking your brains out behind me on the bus, don't mind me if I move three seats away. If you're at work, bragging about how sick you are but you came in anyway, please stay away from my cubicle.

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    Does this sound extreme to you? Unfriendly? Or even rude? According to The Center for Disease Control website these are not extreme measures but reasonably safe precautions. They have a handy guide to staying well during cold/flu season:

    1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
    2. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
    3. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
    4. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.

    So really, I'm not so out of bounds when I wipe down my computer keyboard with Lysol disinfectant wipes after a sick IT guy comes over to fix my computer. Ick!


    Have you seen that new commercial about the flu season? The one where no one is touching each other and the tag line is something about if we all acted this way the flu wouldn't spread? That commercial makes me giggle -- it sounds a lot like my perfect, illness-free dream world. Of course, here in the real world, we need to touch each other all the time, and in a city like New York, one cannot avoid touching surfaces that have been touched by everyone and everything else. It's a part of life.


    In fact, we need germs; we need to be exposed to them in order for our immune system to work against them. According to the "Hygiene Hypothesis": "the human immune system evolved two types of biological defenses. When one defensive system lacks practice fighting bacteria and viruses, perhaps from an overly sanitary lifestyle, the other system becomes too powerful and overreacts -- as an allergic reaction -- to harmless substances like pollen." This hypothesis is why some people believe there is a current rise in severe childhood allergic reactions. So we need some germs, yes, but I'd rather avoid the lung illnesses, like influenza.


    What steps do you take to keep you healthy in this season? What are your favorite home remedies or grandmother's secrets?

Published On: December 26, 2007