Studies show that the average person contracts about three colds per
year, and those who are in contact with young children get even more.
While there’s no cure for the common cold or the flu, you can take
measures to protect yourself.
Know the difference between a cold and the flu. A cold can last two or three weeks; most people are better within seven to ten days. On the other hand, without proper care or attention, a flu virus can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia, each of which can cause permanent health damage. Each year, more than 100,000 people in the United States are hospitalized and about 36,000 die due to the flu and its complications.
Wash your hands. Frequent washing with warm water and ordinary soap for 10 seconds is one of the simplest and most effective ways to avoid catching a cold or the flu. Use antibacterial alcohol-based foams and gels when you don’t have access to soap and water.
Disinfect your home regularly. Spray the surfaces in your bathroom and kitchen with a mild solution of 2 to 5 percent bleach in water to kill viruses and bacteria.
Get a flu vaccination if you’re in a high-risk population: (a) People living in long-term care facilities and group homes. (b) Adults over the age of 65. (c) Adults and children with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, emphysema and kidney disease. (d) Pregnant women who will be in the second or third trimester of their pregnancy during the flu season. (e) People with weakened immune systems, such as HIV-positive individuals or cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. (f) Health care workers.
The vaccine is made with a killed virus that cannot give you the flu. Vaccines are not 100 percent effective, so you may still get a less severe case of the flu after receiving the vaccine. The vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective in your body, so prepare yourself before the season hits.
Discuss FluMist with your doctor if you are healthy and between 5 and 49 years. Approved in 2003 by the Food and Drug Administration, this flu vaccine is delivered through a nasal spray.
Eat a well-balanced diet. It’s essential to building a healthy immune system, and it provides sources of energy and nutrition for optimal growth and development. Taking a daily multivitamin– especially when you’re fatigued or stressed–also helps ensure that you will receive an adequate dose of minerals and vitamins.
Get plenty of rest. On average, humans require seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Lack of sleep can lower the immune system’s ability to react when needed. Without sufficient sleep, the immune system is hard-pressed to keep up with its nightly repair work, and creates an opening for opportunistic diseases.
Stock your medicine cabinet with a supply of single-symptom drugs such as cough suppressants, pain relievers and antihistamines. Cold symptoms tend to appear in sequence, not all at once, so multi-symptom formulas often give you too much or not enough medicine for any given symptom. Avoid time-release capsules for the same reason. See 43 Organize the Medicine Cabinet.