With the temperature continuing to drop outside, more people are catching colds and spiking fevers of their own as the cold and flu season rages on.
Generally, cold and flu season begins in late fall or early winter and peaks in either January or February. However, as officials caution that it is still far too early to know whether the worst is over, it’s never too late to employ preventative measures to protect your health before spring arrives.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent transmission of the flu virus is through personal hygiene. Specifically, hand washing with soap and water.
Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t. Effective hand washing can improve your own health and make public spaces safer.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there are three main actions to take to fight the flu:
Take time to get a flu vaccine: Although there are many different flu viruses, it’s important to keep your flu vaccination up to date because it changes annually to protect you from what research suggests the three most common strains may be that year.
Take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs: stay home when you’re sick, cover your cough, try to avoid touching your mouth, eyes, or nose with your hands, clean and disinfect surfaces, and wash your hands.
Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them: if you do get the flu, studies indicate taking antivirals may shorten the duration and intensity of your illness.
Adhering to these guidelines could mean the difference between a healthy start to the New Year or a sniffling one.
While getting a flu vaccine every year and making sure to visit your doctor at the first sign of flu-like symptoms are two vital components to beating the flu, there are also preventative measures to employ on a daily basis that can help you beat germs in general, not just the flu. One of the most common ways germs are transmitted is when you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, ears, or mouth.
To break this chain of transmission, there are two basic lines of defense: washing your hands and decontaminating frequently touched objects.
Hand Washing to Stay Healthy
But it’s not just about washing your hands: it’s about washing your hands frequently and correctly. Although hand washing seems like it should be a nearly intuitive practice, there are some basic guidelines to follow to ensure you’re practicing good hand hygiene:
Wash your hands numerous times throughout the day, especially before meals, after using the restroom, or after you’ve touched anything that may be particularly contaminated with germs, like trash or objects in “high-traffic” areas (like elevators or buses)
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds
Make sure to thoroughly scrub the entirety of each hand to effectively remove the germs
If soap and water are not available, it’s best to use a sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and still follow the guidelines listed above.
Businesses can help keep their workers happy and healthy by making sure workers can easily practice good hand hygiene by installing hand sanitizer dispensers near areas that are used most frequently, like elevators, bathrooms, the cafeteria, break room, etc.
Keep Surfaces Clean and Disinfected
Even the best hand hygiene in the world can only be so effective when the areas we interact with are not properly maintained. Implementing effective cleaning strategies are some of the best prevention measures we can utilize to protect our communities from the brunt of the cold and flu season.
To successfully clean a public area, it must be both cleaned and disinfected. The former removes dirt and grime, the latter kills bacteria, viruses, and other potentially harmful microorganisms. Both are necessary to create a clean environment that promotes a sense of wellbeing.
The most advantageous cleaning protocols follow three basic tenets:
Develop a detailed and sustainable cleaning schedule: create a cleaning schedule that outlines each cleaning task, the frequency with which it needs to be completed, and the order it needs to be completed in (use a top-down approach to avoid cross-contamination). Establishing a clear set of expectations for what it means to adequately clean an area ensures consistency and makes it easier to implement and maintain your cleaning protocol.
Use the right cleaning solutions: elbow grease can only get you so far, it is also necessary to use solutions that are both powerful and sustainable. An all-purpose cleaner simultaneously removes grime and disinfects.
Remember that cleaning is a process, not an event: by spot-cleaning throughout the day (picking up litter, wiping down frequently touched objects, removing trash, etc), you can make your daily cleaning and deep cleaning regimens more efficient and effective.
Using these prevention techniques will help to keep you and your community healthy until the worst of the cold and flu season is behind us!
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