As we trudge through another cold and flu season, many patients start to inquire about how they can prevent falling victim to a seasonal bug.
Vitamin supplementation, nasal lavage, eating for the season, sleep maintenance, and plant-based medicines all have garnered attention, but we often ignore the most effective, simplest form of prevention – avoidance!
We need look no further than the resurgence of the zombie genre for a quick lesson in disease transmission. If you drop one infected individual into a crowd it doesn’t take much to spread the disease through a population. The best method for fighting infection is a pre-emptive strike – don’t get sick in the first place!
While it is pretty tough to convince a zombie to self impose quarantine, rational responsible adults should have no problem seeing the benefits of a temporary sequestration (not to mention the opportunity to catch up on your Netflix queue). While a few sniffles can be related to indoor allergies, or simply a reaction to the dry cold air, more significant symptoms like chills, fever, pinkeye, or body aches signal the need for some alone time. It is not just for your own health benefit, but consider it a socially responsible act to prevent those around you from suffering the same fate.
Feel better after pounding back some cold medication or drinking some herbal tea? Don’t be fooled, you are still contagious. If you absolutely must present yourself in public, you still need to do everything you can to protect those around you. Excuse yourself from handshaking, no European cheek kissing, and remember to cover a cough with your forearm. Avoid the communal dessert and snack trays – no one wants a side of rhinovirus with their short bread cookies.
While there is more than a generous dose of luck in avoiding the common cold or flu, there are some precautions that should become part of your routine. Of course hand washing is an absolute must. Avoid contacting your eyes, mouth or face, with your hands when at all possible.
It may seem obvious, but avoid sharing water bottles, cutlery, and that office candy dish that all sorts of unclean hands have visited.
Perhaps most important is educating family members (especially those little germ bags in the family) to observe hand washing etiquette, arm cover during coughs, and refrain from sharing common germ carrying inanimate objects.
Despite our best efforts, it is impossible to avoid all exposure to seasonal viruses. So remember to stick to the healthy fundamentals – eating well, moving more, and lowering stress to maintain good immune function. If you find you are catching every bug going around, speak to your health-care provider about more aggressive prevention options.