This winter season, the only thing you want running is your heater, not your nose.
But with flu and cold viruses spreading faster during the winter months than a fluffy marshmallow in a mug of hot chocolate milk, it’s easy to get infected with the flu or a cold by just the simplest action. While there’s no 100% effective measure to prevent getting sick, there are steps you can take that the CDC recommends to reduce your chances.
Get a flu shot.
The best time to get the flu vaccine is when it becomes available in your community, but getting the vaccine later is better than not getting it at all. The young, those older than age 65 and the chronically ill are most at risk for complications from seasonal flu. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone age six months and older. Three different flu shots are available, and your provider will help select the right one for you.
Two things to remember: Flu shots don't cause the flu, and getting a flu shot won't protect you against the common cold.
Wash your hands.
Wash your hands often. The viruses that cause colds and seasonal flu are spread by droplets, usually when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. The virus is airborne and enters your body through your nose or mouth, or from your hands after you have touched an object contaminated with the virus. For instance, if you share a phone or a computer keyboard, or touch public door handles, and put your hands near your face, the virus could enter your mouth or nose. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water is best for cleaning cold viruses off your hands. If you don't have access to soap and water, consider carrying an alcohol-based hand cleaner with you.
Use tissues, then toss them.
Don't stuff used tissues back in your pocket. Throw them away.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home if you are sick to prevent spreading your illness. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.
Practice good health habits.
The CDC recommends that you follow general recommendations to stay healthy. These suggestions include: get plenty of sleep; be physically active; manage your stress; drink plenty of fluids; and eat nutritious food.
Want to take further action on preventing a cold or flu? Read more tips from the CDC here.