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At first, you may just feel unusually tired. Then, you notice that your throat is scratchy and you’ve developed a cough. Soon enough, the telltale headache, congestion and body aches follow. Colds and flu can strike quickly and make you miserable. They can also cost you valuable work and family time, cutting your productivity and interrupting your plans.
There never seems to be a convenient time to catch a cold or to come down with the flu. Here’s a checklist of some steps you can take to avoid getting the flu and colds this winter:
Get a flu shotGetting inoculated against the flu is the best thing you can do to protect yourself from the virus. Be sure to get your flu shot as early as possible for maximum protection. Be sure to do your research, though. People with egg allergies, allergies to other flu shot ingredients or a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome may not be able to have flu shots. Ask your doctor if you have any concerns.
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughlyWashing your hands frequently with warm water and soap is also a proven, effective way to avoid flu and cold germs. For the best protection, use an ample amount of soap and rub hands together for 20-30 seconds before rinsing them. While soap and water is best, you can use an alcohol-based hand rub when you don’t have access to water. In addition to washing your hands before eating meals and after bathroom visits, also wash them after shaking hands or coming into contact with people or surfaces during flu season.
Keep your hands away from your nose, mouth and eyesFlu and cold germs are often spread when you touch your hands to your face. So, it’s helpful to use a paper towel or tissue when touching faucets, doorknobs and handles in public places. You can also carry your own pens during flu season to avoid contracting germs when passing them back and forth.
Stay away from sick peopleAvoid coming into close contact with anyone who has flu or cold symptoms. If you must care for someone who is sick, wash your hands more often and don’t share dishes, eating utensils, towels or bed linens. Wipe down whatever they touch, and encourage them to use tissues when they sneeze or cough.
Keep your work space cleanAt work, clean your phone, desktop, light switches and chair armrests regularly with antibacterial soap or wipes. At home, clean things that family members tend to share or touch, like faucets, light switches, doorknobs and remote controls. If you share a car with other people, remember to wipe down the steering wheel, gear shift and door handles.
Be careful at the gymThe warm, humid environment of many gyms combined with people sharing exercise equipment can make workout areas veritable germ factories. You don’t have to skip the gym, but take special care to wipe down all surfaces before using commonly used machines, and remember to place towels on surfaces before you sit or lie down.
Take care of yourselfFor a strong immune system, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest and avoid stress. Regular exercise can also serve to boost your immune system, so be sure to make time for that year-round.
If you do come down with a bad cold or the flu, isolate yourself as much as possible to avoid spreading germs to others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever reducing medicine) except to seek medical care, if necessary. Here are some things to remember when you’re fighting a cold and to help with flu recovery:
• Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
• Get plenty of rest.
• Drink lots of fluids like water, tea, fruit juices and electrolyte drinks. (See below for our hot tea recipe.)
• Chicken broth and chicken soup can provide nutritional value while soothing sore throats and stuffy nasal passages.
• The steam from showers and baths can lessen sinus pressure, and warm compresses on your nose, mouth, eyes and forehead can help ease sinus pain.
• Using an over-the-counter saline solution to can rinse nasal passages, and gargling a mixture of warm water and salt can help sore throat discomfort.
• Over the counter decongestants, antihistamines, cough suppressant and pain and fever relievers can also help with cold and flu symptoms.
• Antiviral drugs can help with severe flu cases by making symptoms milder, shortening the duration and helping to prevent complications. Antivirals require a prescription and should be started within two days of symptom onset for best results.
Having any symptoms associated with a cold or flu can be a miserable experience, and over-the-counter drugs just don't cut it sometimes. For those instances that leave you with a sore throat, nasty headache or upset stomach that you can't seem to shake, we're offering up our two favorite homeopathic recipes to help get you feeling like yourself again:
• Tea: All you need for this is a loose leaf infuser (or a makeshift version made from a coffee filter), some peppermint or spearmint leaves, ginger root and hot water. Cut up the mint leaves, along with the ginger, and insert them into your infuser. Poor hot water over the mechanism and let it steep. The mint will help clear your sinuses and sooth your throat, while the ginger plays a big roll in settling that upset stomach and getting rid of your headaches. Feel free to add some raw honey for a little bit of sweetness.
• Liquid Flu Shot: Don't worry, this doesn't include any needles. It's just a little mini concoction to give you a bit of that soothing affect. (This doesn't take the place of an actual flu shot.) Poor a glass full of orange juice, add a drop of echinacea, a drop of yerba santa and a squeeze of lemon, then use this mixture to wash down a garlic bulb capsule. Sounds crazy, we know. Try not to expect the best tasting cocktail you've ever had, but be prepared to start feeling better. You can do this every day that you don't feel well. We especially recommend it at the first sign of congestion.
Remember, antibiotics treat bacterial infections, colds and flu are viral infections. While it's possible to develop secondary bacterial infections from colds and flu, antibiotics are usually not effective in treating primary viral infections. Ask your doctor about the best course of treatment for your particular case.
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