Herbal Remedy, Lifestyle Medicine

Winter is Coming: 5 Strategies To Stay Virus-Free This Cold and Flu Season

Autumn is upon us, which means cooler nights for blissful sleep, children settling back into school — and the return of dastardly cough and cold viruses.

Most of you have probably suffered at the hands of these wee nasties at some point, and know they can make your life miserable. And, once you’re sick, aside from the tincture of time (and a few tricks of the trade to ease suffering — stay tuned next week!), there’s not much to be done. Therefore, the first step to surviving the fall and winter months is prevention.

Here are a few strategies help stop you getting sick in the first place.


1. Train your kids and colleagues to “cough into your elbow”. Cold and flu viruses are super-contagious and can spread like wildfire, especially through close contacts. One way they spread is by becoming airborne through sneezing and coughing, only to be inhaled by the next victim (up to six feet away!). Thus, the elbow maneuver can make a difference. And the handshake? Save it for summer or try a fist-pump — it’s more hygienic.

2. Put Kleenex in the bin. Dispose of ‘nasal secretions’ properly. Kleenex should go straight into the rubbish, not on the floor or coffee table. Cold viruses can stay alive on surfaces for several hours, waiting for new digs to call home (for example, your respiratory tract). Another tip: disinfect frequently touched surfaces (including doorknobs) regularly. Learn to love Lysol wipes.

3. Become a hand sanitizer junkie. You rolled your eyes, didn’t you? But guess what — this is probably the most effective change you can make.  Alcohol is virucidal (can deactivate or destroy viruses), so use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the day to kill any cold and flu germs. I recommend storing a small container in your purse, desk drawer, and each room of your house where you might blow your nose, eat, or touch your mouth. Be diligent and train others to help reduce virus transmission.

4. Don’t smoke. You’re more susceptible to infection and likely to stay sick longer than your smoke-free counterparts. Just another reason to butt out. Need help quitting? Find it here.

5. Forget about the quick fixes. There are a multitude of over-the-counter remedies that claim to boost immune function and help you stay healthy. Unfortunately, there’s no hard data to back these findings. There is some research backing Zinc to reduce the duration of common cold symptoms, so as soon as you notice early cold symptoms, get started by chewing or sucking a 10mg lozenge every couple of hours, to a maximum of 10 per day (check your bottle for specific directions). But you’ll likely still be under the weather for a bit.

What about Cold FX? Echinacea? Vitamin C? The evidence is scant. Save your moolah.

6. Get your flu shot! Although flu viruses differ than those that cause the common cold, the symptoms can be similar (and worse!) —cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever, muscle aches. Getting immunized each flu season is the best way to protect you against this nasty bug.

And remember: people are most contagious in the early days of illness, but they can still spread infection for up to two weeks following onset of symptoms. Do your part to be diligent with the above measures, and hopefully those around you will do the same. Spread the word, and give the gift of hand sanitizer. Hopefully they’ll pay it forward.

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