This time of year, everyone's got a sniffle, cough or worse - the dreaded flu bug! These viruses have evolved to be highly resistant to our efforts to contain them.
While we can't prevent the disease completely, we can help lower the risk of spreading it around. Here are five ways to beat the flu this year:
1) Wash your hands
This is the best way to keep the flu from spreading. Your hands are the most likely vectors for spreading disease. You touch something with the virus on it, then touch your eyes, nose or food; soon, you're coughing too much.
Regular hand-washing is the first line of defense. Wash your hands after using the bathroom, before meals and after contact with someone who might be ill. If your job entails lots of public contact, including handling forms, take regular hand-washing breaks. Scrub for 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
If you can't get to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Accompany the sanitizer with a moisturizer, as too much sanitizer can lead to dry, cracked skin and a greater risk of disease.
2) Practice good self-care
Your immune system needs energy to keep your body free of disease. That means getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition.
A good night's sleep is especially important for preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Eating a diet rich in vitamin C can also strengthen your immune system. Citrus is a great source, as are leafy greens.
3) DAB - destroy all bacteria
"Dabbing" involves tucking your nose into your elbow. It's the most sanitary way to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
Covering your mouth with your hands doesn't do much since you're going to touch other things with your hands. Your elbow, though, doesn't see nearly as much contact.
4) Practice self-quarantine
If you're sick, stay home. If your children are sick, keep them home. No one likes missing work or school, but the alternative is even more widespread illness. Staying home will also give you time to rest and recover faster, leading to more productivity when you go back in.
Always wait 24 hours after a fever has broken before returning to work. There's nothing heroic about "toughing it out" while getting others sick.
If you can't stay home, at least take steps to prevent diseases from spreading. Avoid prolonged contact with anyone. Wash your hands, and avoid touching things other people regularly touch. Warn others that you're feeling sick so they can keep a safe distance.
5) Avoid crowds
Wherever lots of people gather, disease follows. If possible, avoid crowded public spaces this time of year.
Remember that travelers from far away may have different strains of the same bugs. Whenever people from multiple communities gather, the chances of infection increase. If you're entertaining or traveling, double down on good hygiene habits!