During flu season—or any season—there are simple steps you can take to avoid the spread of infection and reduce the risk of getting sick yourself. With proper medical care, most people can handle a bout with cold or flu, but these can be life threatening to a person with cancer, the elderly, pregnant women, newborns—or others with weakened immune systems. Take action this year to prevent illness with these helpful tips.
Practice Proper Handwashing
You’re in a rush…there are no paper towels…we get it. Sometimes it seems easier to skip handwashing. But as you touch objects and surfaces during the day, those germs really add up. The most important times to wash your hands are before preparing food, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing or coughing. Or really anytime your hands are dirty. After applying soap, rub your hands for twenty seconds (the length of “Happy Birthday!”) before rinsing and drying.
Cover Coughs and Sneezes
Is your go-to a tissue or the vampire sneeze? Either way, make sure to cover your coughs and sneezes whenever they happen. Sneezing into your elbow rather than your hand is the best practice to minimize germs. Keep tissues accessible by leaving a box in your desk or car. Covering up can prevent the spread of germs and help others stay healthy during flu—or any—season.
Don’t Ignore those Paper Cuts
For small cuts and scrapes, proper bandaging and cleaning keeps infection away. As soon as you are cut, the wound is vulnerable to germs and diseases. For a tiny cut, a good wash and a band-aid should do the trick. For slightly larger injuries, use those handwashing skills you just learned, gauze to halt the bleeding, and rinse with water. For any serious injuries, consider the Immediate Care or taking a trip to the ER. Any cut longer than a ¼” may require stitches. If you are unsure of whether or not to go to the doctor, always be safe rather than sorry.
Practice Food Safety
Any parent knows that keeping the kitchen clean is half the battle. However, since the kitchen is where we consume most of our food, it is especially important to practice cleanliness there. Washing hands and sanitizing work surfaces eliminates germs and promotes a healthier lifestyle. When cooking, using separate cutting boards for raw meats, vegetables, and cooked foods is essential. It can be a hassle, but separating these ingredients minimizes cross contamination.
Cooking food to the proper temperature will also help keep your guests healthy. Different meats have different temperatures for optimal safety (and tastiness!). Investing in a meat thermometer and separate cutting boards will help make food safety in the kitchen easier.
One of the easiest way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated. Vaccinations not only help the person receiving them, but also keep others healthy who, due to compromised immune systems, may not be eligible for vaccinations themselves.
Contrary to popular belief, vaccinations don’t give you the disease they are meant to prevent. Vaccinations give you a weakened version of the infection to support the formation of antibodies, which actually can’t make you sick. We tend to think of children and seniors as those most in need of vaccinations, but those in the middle need attention too. See which of these immunizations you might be missing.
Follow these tips, and you’ll not only keep yourself and your family healthy but also protect your community. Even small adjustments to your daily routine can make a big impact, this flu season and beyond.