5 tips to avoid the cold and flu

Health
Ill man drinking hot tea

Just because the cold and flu are common this time of year doesn’t mean it’s inevitable you’ll become ill. There’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk—and you should, especially where flu is concerned. The flu is a potentially life-threatening illness, particularly for those at high risk of developing flu-related complications. And even though a cold is generally less severe, it can still leave you ailing for several days.
To steer clear of both viral illnesses this winter, Angela Harris, infection control manager for Tidelands Health, recommends taking these simple but effective steps:

1. Benefit from the flu vaccine

Benefit from the flu vaccine — and encourage others in your family to do so, too. The flu vaccine can help prevent you from getting sick with the flu in the first place. And in cases when someone who receives the flu vaccine still comes down with the flu, the severity of the illness can be greatly reduced.
By vaccinating yourself, you are also helping to create “herd immunity,” which can help protect more vulnerable members of your family, including infants, seniors and those with chronic illnesses, from becoming ill.
Area children who haven’t yet received the flu vaccine can receive a no-cost flu shot at a teddy bear clinic hosted by Tidelands Health on Saturday, Jan. 11, at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road in Myrtle Beach. Learn more about the event by going here. 

2. Follow good hand hygiene

Wash your hands frequently and properly.
“You should always wash your hands before preparing food, eating or touching your face,” says Harris. “It’s also very important to wash your hands if you come into contact with someone who is ill.”

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If there’s any doubt about whether you should wash your hands, do it, she says, especially after touching surfaces or objects in public places (think carts at grocery stores or pens at checkout counters) or shaking hands.
Harris suggests people follow the CDC’s five-step approach to wash their hands effectively:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water
  • Lather your hands thoroughly and completely by rubbing them together with soap
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel.

3. Clean surfaces

During cold and flu season, regularly disinfect shared surfaces such as doorknobs, drawer pulls, faucets, remote controls, elevator buttons and desk and counter surfaces.
It’s especially important to disinfect if someone in your environment has recently become ill. However, people often carry the cold and flu viruses for several days before exhibiting symptoms, so you should try to continue disinfecting all season long.

4. Sneeze into a tissue

Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow—and teach your children to as well.
“Sneezing or coughing into your hands makes you more likely to transfer germs to other people,” says Harris. “And when you sneeze or cough into the air, the particles can travel quite a distance.”
The best option is to sneeze into a tissue, throw it away and wash your hands. If a tissue isn’t available, the next best option is to cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or the crook of your elbow.

5. Stay strong

Boost your immune system with a proper diet and sufficient sleep. Help your body help you. Eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and lean meats and try to consistently get at least seven hours of sleep each night.

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