As the days shorten towards winter, sniffles and sore throats return. Noses start dripping, and all too soon you've got aches and pains, fever and malaise. And so do your kids, or your colleagues, or your friends.
This is the onset of cold and flu season, when germs travel easily from person to person as we spend more time close together indoors. And everything can be a good breeding ground for germs: computer keyboards, the knob on the door into your office, the telephone you use, the escalator railing, the shopping cart handle. Germs get spread by hand-to-hand contact, by touching a contaminated surface or by being spewed through the air in droplets as someone sneezes, coughs or talks. On average adults get about two to four colds a year, children about six to 10, mostly in the fall and winter months.
Want to avoid all this? Here are a few simple tips for staying healthy this season from the experts.
1. The most preventive measure for killing germs is washing hands. Wash before eating and preparing food. Wash after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, changing a diaper and caring for a sick person, to name a few common situations. If washing your hands with soap is not doable, slather on hand sanitiser Secretions from your nose
2. Steer clear of anyone sneezing, blowing his nose or coughing, or at least give such people a wide birth of at least six feet, says Ann Rixinger, a US-based infectious-disease specialist. In addition to that, wipe surfaces desks and tables, phones, steering wheels with disinfectants and cleansers periodically.
3. The best protection against the flu virus is a yearly flu shot. Getting a shot this season also helps ensure you won't pass on the virus to those around you if you get infected.
4. Researchers have studied the effects of vitamin C on colds for years. An Australian study in 2007 found that a vitamin C
supplement failed "to reduce the incidence of colds in the normal population", which means "that routine megadose preventive medicine is not rationally justified for community use."
5. Your grandmother was right about chicken soup and gargling. Both use a fair amount of salt, which works as an anti-inflammatory and mucus-thinning agent. "Chicken soup is a good source of sodium, and it goes down easily."
And when you get back to work with the remnants of a cough, please, cover your mouth.