You know the symptoms – sneezing, scratchy throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, watery eyes. It is that miserable
morning when you wake up and say “ Dang… I am sick.” Making things even worse you might have a fever, headache,
fatigue, muscle aches and chills meaning you could have the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
estimates that as many as 49,000 people die from the flu or flu-like illness each year. Whether the common cold or
something worse, it is not an enjoyable time. Adults can average two to four colds each year, and children can catch
between six and eight. Avoiding these nasty little bugs in the first place is the way to go. Here are some common,
simple cold and flu basics to help you protect yourself and your family from getting sick.
According to the CDC the most effective protective measure you can take against the flu is to get a flu vaccination
each year. Flu vaccinations are appropriate for everyone 6 months of age and older. While there are many different flu
viruses, the vaccine produced each year will help protect you against the most common strains identified through
extensive research for that year. Yearly vaccinations typically become available starting in September. Most insurance
policies provide flu vaccinations at no cost to you.
If shots and doctors are not your thing, frequent hand washing is a great protective measure to take against the
common cold and flu. Flu and cold viruses are transmitted through microscopic droplets from an infected person’s
respiratory system. If someone sneezes or coughs, this causes these microscopic droplets to be sprayed onto any
nearby surface—including you! If people cough or sneeze into their hands (without a tissue), the droplets are on their
hands and can be spread to surfaces that they touch. If you then touch that same surface, you pick up the virus. If you
rub your eyes or nose after touching one of those surfaces, you’ve just infected yourself. About 80% of contagious
diseases are transmitted in this manner. The simple friction that occurs when you rub skin against skin while using
warm water and soap followed by thorough rinsing and drying can get rid of most potentially harmful germs. While
objects such as telephones, doorknobs, toothbrushes, and faucet handles are looked at as hot spots for germ activity,
they are not the largest transportation center for germs. If you think about it for a second and ask “How did those
germs get there?” you can see that the answer is your hands. Germs are spread through the human hand more than
any other avenue. That’s why frequent hand-washing is proven to gets rid of the illness-causing germs and help
prevent the spread of some diseases. This is especially true in close proximity situations such as family, friends, and co-workers.
The CDC says the simple act of hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of
viral and bacterial infections. If you want to help prevent colds and flu, just stop—and wash your hands.