By Carol Phillips
While our country continues to deal with high rates of cold and flu this season, focusing on prevention can help us stay on the right side of health. Our daily habits play a crucial role in avoiding the germs that are ready, willing, and able to invade our bodies and increase our risk of illness. Focusing on prevention can help you, your family, and your surrounding community stay as healthy as possible.
Start today by implementing these simple strategies to avoid the cold and flu:
• Practice healthy behaviors to boost your immune system (exercise daily, eat healthy foods, manage your stress, positive thinking, get adequate sleep, etc.)
• Stay hydrated. Every cell needs adequate water and when you’re dehydrated, your body lacks a critical tool it needs to stay healthy.
• Wash hands often and well. This is, by far, one of the best ways to avoid contracting and spreading disease. Be aware of toilet handles, sink surfaces, and door knobs that tend to have high bacteria counts. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), proper hand washing could prevent one million deaths each year.*
• Keep hands away from your face, especially direct contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Use hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial hand wipes, especially in situations where regular hand washing is not an option.
• Disinfect surfaces often. Think of all the places you touch where germs can be lingering. Include items typically forgotten, such as cell phones, keys, credit/debit cards, door knobs, steering wheel, car seats, toys, etc.
• Wash towels and bedding often; wash in hot water with an adequate amount of detergent. Wash pillow cases often. Pillows need to be cleaned occasionally, especially during times of illness.
• Avoid sharing drink containers. Wash and sanitize containers daily.
• When shopping, clean the carriage handle thoroughly and wash hands before putting groceries away. Also, wash hands before cooking and eating.
• Avoid being in close proximity to sick individuals whenever possible. At home, protect yourself while caring for sick family members. At work, be conscientious about distancing yourself from co-workers who are sick, including touching the same items they touch. Employers should encourage ill employees to stay home and not pressure them to work. Sending them home for a day or two can keep an illness from spreading to multiple employees, which will surely have a greater negative impact on productivity.
• Practice what I call, “Turn, Step, Exhale.” The cold and flu can be transmitted through the air; therefore, the risk of airborne contamination is increased when we are in close proximity to people who are coughing or sneezing. In those moments, turn, step away, and exhale to reduce the risk of germs entering your body through your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Put dirty tissues directly into the garbage. Avoid touching garbage containers.
• Create more physical distance between you and people you need to converse with who have cold or flu symptoms. Wear a face mask if you are ill and need to be near people who are healthy. Likewise, consider wearing one if you are healthy and need to spend time with people who are ill. Do not re-use disposable masks.
• Isolate family members who are ill and be aware of cross-contamination (i.e. put dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher, clothes and bedding directly into the washer, etc.)
• Be creative to continue social attachments while maintaining your distance. Can you spend time on the phone with a friend who is ill or video chat? When people feel less isolated, they are more likely to feel better, which positively contributes to overall health.
• Call your doctor, if you have questions or feel a visit is needed.
Practicing these simple, healthy habits can help you avoid becoming sick and also reduces the risk of others becoming ill, as well. Less sick days in our lives creates more time for a happier and healthier existence.
Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol on WTPL-FM. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at www.HealthDesignNH.com.