Okay we know it's hard to get through a year without having one or more colds or upper respiratory tract infections (URI). If you have allergic rhinitis (hay fever) it may be difficult to tell when cold symptoms start and end. Some people are more prone to catch colds based on their health status, the existence of other medical conditions or job. If you work around children under the age of 6, you are often exposed to more childhood diseases, such as common colds and flu syndromes. So how can you prepare for this year's cold and flu season?
Here are seven tips to help you get ready for cold and flu season 2011
- Avidly wash your hands (at all times) before eating or drinking, and periodically throughout the day. Some common cold and flu viruses may survive on hard surfaces for three or more days. Common contaminants include: door knobs, light switches, desk tops, computer keyboards, remotes, phones and on/off switches of many devices. Hand cleaner solutions are the next best thing to full hand washing.
- Avoid close contact with other people that have signs or symptoms of cold or flu. This may be difficult when on the job but do the best you can. If you have a sick friend or co-worker, ask them to turn their head away from you and cough or sneeze into the inside of their elbow when the urge comes. You should take one or more sick days if you have severe cold or flu symptoms. Setting a good example can also be helpful.
- Eat a balanced and healthy meal at all times, centered on fresh fruits and vegetables. The more naturally colorful your food the better (for example, leafy vegetables, tomato, carrots, broccoli, squash, blueberries, bananas etc.). The old folklore of feeding a cold may have some merit. Don't over eat, but keep up the intake of vegetables, fruits water and juices when you are under attack by the common cold virus. Should you "starve a fever"? That would be bad advice. Never starve yourself. Generally your appetite goes down anyway during a fever. But you need to stay well hydrated (drink fluids) and keep eating some food to balance out the increased metabolism (breakdown of the bodies nutritional resources) while sick. Remember, eight glasses of water a day (for older children and adults)!
- Get your annual flu shot as soon as it becomes available. Flu viruses change in genetic structure every year. Yes, scientists are dealing with a constantly moving target when it comes to preparing a vaccination for the oncoming flu season. Despite the evasiveness of the flu virus, doctors have helped millions of people avoid the severe consequences of flu syndrome (pneumonia and death) by supporting aggressive vaccination campaigns. So don't miss getting your flu vaccine (unless you are allergic to the vaccine or don't qualify for other reasons).
- Disinfect surfaces at home and at work with appropriate germ killing agents. Diluted bleach can kill most germs (but be careful because it is very irritating to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract). Wiping down hard surfaces (especially ones mentioned above) may remove viruses poised for attack.
- Exercise is on this list because it helps to build and maintain a stronger and healthier heart, lungs and immune system. Walking 2 or more miles 4 times weekly may be enough, but almost any other aerobic workout that builds up a sweat, may keep you in better shape for URIs.
- Last but not least, proper rest (adequate sleep) should never be under-estimated. The mental and physical state of the human body is much better maintained when well rested. The immune system is healthier when the body is under less mental and physical stress. When we get less than 6 or 7 hour sleep on a daily basis we are creating more stress which reduces our capacity to ward off certain infections and heal properly. Some people require less sleep than others, but most children and young adults should get 7 or more hours of sleep. When you have an URI, you will require more rest than usual. Always try to get adequate sleep, and extend your sleeping hours when you get sick from a cold or flu, in order to recover faster.