Image credit: Blowing my nose by superhua, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
Well, I’ve been an early victim of the 2014-2015 cold and flu season. Despite my frequent hand washing and liberal use of hand sanitizer, I have a cold. My research indicates that flu season peaks in December so in an effort to spare you, dear reader, from a miserable experience, I’m sharing some tips to help you avoid the invisible nasties.
Tips for avoiding and spreading cold and flu viruses
- Get your flu shot. If your insurance doesn’t cover it, it’s pretty affordable to get one. Many chain pharmacies carry it and some local organizations may offer free or low-cost flu shot clinics. If you Google flu shot clinics and your city name, you are likely to find something. I found several in my area. If you can’t find anything online, check with your local health department.
- Wash your hands frequently. Use warm water and soap and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (saying the alphabet or singing “Happy Birthday”–in your head, of course–is a good measure that you’ve washed long enough). If you can’t get to the sink to wash, use hand sanitizer. (I keep a bottle at my desk and in my purse.)
- Cover your coughs and sneezes. Ideally with a facial tissue and washing your hands after. No tissue handy? Remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand.
- Avoid touching your face. Especially your eyes, nose and mouth. Since we touch a lot of things throughout the day, we are potentially exposed to germs when we touch the common points of entry for viruses. It’s pretty amazing how much we touch our face without realizing it. I’ve caught myself doing it several times while writing this post!
- Stay home if you’re sick. Working in a cubicle farm with hundreds of other people, it’s not surprising I lost the battle. But if you can, stay home. Your co-workers will thank you. If you’re not sure if you should stay home when you have a virus, check out Web MD’s tips for deciding if you’re too sick to go to work.
After all your efforts, you still got sick. What can you do now?
- Rest as much as you can. You may want to try to push through it, but your body is telling you it’s tired for a reason. Getting plenty of sleep allows your body to build more resources to vanquish the little invaders.
- Use an over-the-counter saline nasal spray to combat stuffy noses. A nurse practitioner encouraged me to give saline nasal spray a try. I have had bad experiences with nasal sprays in the past so I was skeptical, but the saline solution is very gentle and provides a lot of relief. I swear by it as a cold and flu standby as necessary as facial tissues.
- Use facial tissues with lotion. The delicate tissue around your nostrils gets rubbed raw from all the nose blowing that’s going on. Using facial tissues with lotion helps mitigate the process.
- Drink plenty of fluids. This helps loosen congestion. I have a hard time remembering this when I’m sick. Herbal teas help, especially if I have a sore throat.
- Nourish yourself with chicken soup. Not only does it soothe a sore throat, chicken soup can help reduce inflammation and temporarily help move mucus out of the body.
- If all else fails, go for an over-the-counter remedy. Doctors recommend taking symptom-specific drugs such as a decongestant paired with a pain reliever, instead of a multi-symptom remedy to treat colds and flu.
That’s all I have in me to share. Now back to my couch and comfiest pillow, box of lotion-loaded facial tissues and Colin Firth marathon on standby for my waking hours.
What are your tips for surviving a cold or the flu? Since I’m still in the throes of this virus, I’m VERY interested in anything you have to share.