If you really can't afford to get sick this winter, you'll need these 5 extra weapons in your arsenal to keep you and your family well.
You've armed yourself with vitamins, hand sanitiser, eucalyptus oil and plenty of clean tissues. You're constantly washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough and eating well - so there's no way you're getting a cold this winter, right?
While practising good hygiene and keeping healthy is a good start, if you really want to avoid a cold, then here's what you need to know.
1. Wash your hands right
Frequent hand washing has been proven to help reduce your chance of catching a cold, but if you think a quick splash under the faucet will do, think again.
While the temperature of the water does not appear to affect microbe removal, using soap definitely does. And you don’t need the fancy antibacterial stuff, many studies have shown that plain soap will do the job of removing bacteria just as well. And drying them is just as important. “Don’t just flick them dry, you need to make sure they’re completely dry,” says Dr Penny Adams of The Mosman Clinic. Making sure they’re dry will greatly impact how easy it is for bacteria to transfer from one surface to another.
2. Throw out all your hankies
Some studies estimate the cold and flu virus could live for up to three days outside the body, so if you’re a handkerchief person, then it’s time to break the habit. “It’s like carrying a germ rag around with you,” says Dr Penny. “Use tissues instead.”
But don’t be tempted to stuff the tissue in your pocket. If you continue to use the tissue a few times, then it’s no better than using hankies. “When you blow your nose, dispose of the tissue straight away, and wash your hands," notes Penny.
3. Get a humidifier
“Not only will a humidifier make you feel more comfortable if you’ve already got a cold, the other interesting thing is that a recent study has shown that maintaining indoor humidity about 45 per cent can actually reduce the infectivity of the influenza virus,” says Dr Penny.
In fact, the study mentioned showed that by raising indoor relative humidity levels to 43 per cent or above, investigators were able to quickly render 86 per cent of airborne virus particles powerless. “It’s very difficult to maintain 45 per cent humidity because of all the dry heat that’s being pumped around us via heaters,” says Dr Penny, adding that most rooms will have a humidity of 20 per cent.
And not just any old humidifier will do – many just blast bacteria around the room. “If you get a humidifier, you need one with a UV light that kills bacteria, and a hygrometer such as the Dyson Humidifier (RRP $799) so you can preset the humidity. You don’t want humidity going too high otherwise you’ll get mould," cautions Penny.
4. Cough into your elbow
We’ve all been taught in years past to cough into our hands, but for the past five years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (and most doctors and educators) have been encouraging kids to cough and sneeze into their elbows. “Most people don’t wash their hands afterwards when they cough, so at least this means your hands are less infectious,” says Dr Penny.
And while some argue that your elbow won’t catch all the germs, the very best habit of all is to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue away.
5. Get the flu vaccine
Finally just because you don’t regularly catch colds or the flu and you consider yourself fit and healthy, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the flu vaccine, especially if you’re pregnant, over 65 or planning to travel. “People say they’re healthy and have never had the flu or don’t catch colds so they don’t need the vaccine. Well, you don’t have any immunity,” explains Dr Penny. “The flu strain changes every year, and right now in Europe and the UK there is a particularly nasty one going around. You do not want to catch influenza," Penny notes.
“The free vaccination covers three strains of influenza, but if you’re travelling around Europe or UK – especially if you’re flying which means you’ll be in dry air - I recommend you get the shot that covers the four strains.”
And as for that myth that if you get a shot you’ll catch a cold?
“You can’t catch a cold off the flu strain in the vaccine. You probably picked it up when you were in the doctor’s waiting room,” says Dr Penny.
What do you use to help avoid catching colds and flus? Let us know by commenting below!