It’s time for kickoff – and no, I’m not talking about the football game. October usually marks the kickoff of flu season and other serious illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The germs that cause these illnesses can spread through the air, direct contact or even by touching a surface and unknowingly transmitting them to your mouth, nose or eyes.
Follow these tips on how to stop the spread of germs through each of these pathways to help prevent illnesses from infiltrating your next tailgate party or scary movie marathon.
1. Get a flu shot.
The CDC reports that getting the flu vaccine is the best prevention against the flu. This virus affects millions of people each year, and causes hospitalizations and even death in some cases. That’s why the CDC recommends that everyone 6-months-old and older get a flu shot each year.
2. Avoid touching the T-zone.
The T-zone refers to the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose and mouth, and it’s where a majority of diseases enter our bodies. In fact, it’s the only portal of entry for respiratory illnesses, like the flu, and gastro-intestinal illnesses, like norovirus (commonly referred to as the “stomach flu”).
We often touch this area without thinking about it, so it’s important to try to be aware of when you’re touching your face, especially during the fall and winter months.
3. Cover your cough.
The flu and other respiratory illnesses can be spread through the air when someone carrying the virus coughs or sneezes. Be sure to cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then follow this next tip.
4. Wash your hands.
Washing your hands is an easy and effective way to stop the spread of germs, but we don’t always do it the right way. According to the CDC, properly washing your hands involves:
- Using clean, running water
- Scrubbing your hands, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, for at least 20 seconds – about the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice
- Drying your hands with a clean towel or air drying them after rinsing them off
And don’t forget to use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and lights and open any doors when you’re done. If you don’t have soap or running water available to you, use hand sanitizer. It may not be as effective as hand washing, but it can still reduce the number of germs on your hands.
5. Clean and disinfect surfaces.
Cleaning isn’t just for the spring. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces in your home or office, such as door knobs and counter tops, reduces the amount of germs and bacteria you and others could come into contact with and prevents the spread of illnesses.
6. Practice general healthy habits.
The fall and coming winter months can be the most stressful time of year. Whether it’s preparing to cook a Thanksgiving meal for 12 or the fourth quarter at work, it’s important to take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Be sure to get enough sleep, squeeze in some physical activity, manage your stress, drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods.
If all else fails and you do get sick
Take a sick day. Staying home when you’re sick – and urging others to do the same – helps stop the spread of germs, protecting others and their friends and families.