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Healthy Habits that Help Prevent Cold and Flu

We do a lot of catching in our lifetime. We catch feelings, we catch flights. We catch up on missed Netflix episodes. And on occasion, we, unfortunately, catch a cold or flu.

While, a cold and flu are definite things we wish not to catch. Some things can’t be undone. BUT!!! We can be a little more vigilant when it comes to practicing effective and preventative measures in order, not to catch a cold or flu.

In the wake of the current flu season. Now is the perfect time to test our knowledge. We must ensure we are practicing healthy, hygienic habits effectively and efficiently.

For instance, what is the optimal length of time for proper handwashing?

Or, what’s the easiest way we can we help our kids to remember to cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze?

And what is it, that we do 432 times a day, on average, that we should drastically reduce during the flu season?

The YUCK Factor

How do we catch viruses?

The cold, flu and now, the new 2019-1Cov virus, are all transmitted the same way. Any person that has caught any said virus. Can pass harmful bacteria on when they sneeze, cough or spit.

When doing so, microscopic droplets are released from their respiratory system and suspended in the air eventually falling onto a surface (or someone).

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a sneeze may produce up to 40,000 droplets and a cough, 3,000 droplets. Those who are close in range, can inhale these suspended droplets and become infected.

Healthy habits coughing

Touching contaminated surfaces with our hands is another way to become infected. If we rub our eyes, bite our nails scratch our nose or rest our head on our hands, after touching a contaminated surface. We are then, at potential risk of becoming infected.

Double-check our hygiene habits

It’s always good measure, to ensure you and your loved ones, are taking the proper precautions and preventive measures to avoid get sick and infecting others during the nasty cold and flu season.

Some of the preventative measures are the SAME precautions for spreading viruses to others. Also, in general, good life habits:

⦁ washing hands, using disinfectants and hand sanitizers
⦁ covering mouth when sneezing and coughing
⦁ managing a healthy lifestyle -boosting immunity, eating well, exercising, self care, no smoking, etc.
⦁ maintaining a clean living and work space

Additional preventative measures are:

⦁ getting a flu vaccination
⦁ avoiding those who are sick
⦁ avoid touching your face – eyes, nose and mouth

Additional precautions to passing on the flu and colds are:

⦁ seek proper medical attention at the first sign of symptoms
⦁ avoid crowded areas / mass gatherings
⦁ wear a mask when in public
⦁ stay home
⦁ don’t spit in public

Healthy Habits protect others
Advice for the public from the World Health Organization

Are we doing the above properly?

Let’s take a closer look at simple hygiene habits that we could improve on.

Effective Best Practice: Hand hygiene

Healthy Hand Hygiene

When the flu & cold season is in full attack mode. It’s our social responsible to practice healthy habits, correctly.

Washing Hands

The next time you wash your hands, count the seconds it takes.

Washing hands is an obvious way to ward off germs. The question is, are we all washing our hands effectively?

The amount of seconds the WHO’s (World Health Organization) states proper hand washing is for 20 seconds to kill germs. And what should be happening during those 20 seconds is as follows:

Healthy habits Proper hand washing
Healthy Habits – Proper hand washing

A good general house rule is. The first thing you do when coming home, is to wash your hands.

Speaking of hands. Don’t be a handful.

And pass on giving and getting high 5’s.

The University of New South Wales, conducted a behavioral observation study that monitored 26 students. They concluded the students, on average, touched their face 27 times an hour. That’s 432 times a day based on an awake day of 16 hours.

Basically, when out and about in public spaces, it’s best to resist the urge to touch your face.

And for the nail biters, have a look at an experiment a teacher conducted in her classroom. Warning: The images will give you the heebie jeebies. Which is a temporary set back, to potentially bringing nail biting to a full stop.

Healthy Habit Tips

Anyone else catch the ‘no spitting in public’ part on the WHO’s poster?

Spitting is gross, but mainly it is unhygenic. Why? It spreads airborne diseases.

The most common and harmful bacteria in spit are those that cause respiratory infections. Such as bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis, viral meningitis, cytomegalovirus and the Epstein barr virus.

When an infected person spits, they spray suspended droplets in the air (much like coughing and sneezing).

For the love of respiratory etiquette and hygiene. COVER your mouth!!

Avoid covering your mouth WITH YOUR HANDS, when coughing and sneezing. Use a tissue, throw it away immediately, or cough/sneeze into a flexed inner elbow.

How are all the cool kids coughing nowadays?

Healthy Habits DAB
Niswonger Children’s Hospital DAB poster

Let’s face it, at times, our health is partly dependent on the actions of others.

To put the above in perspective. A study from State Michigan University conducted a study of hand washing. The study revealed:

⦁ 5% washed their hands long enough & effectively to kill germs
⦁ 33% did not use soap
⦁ 10% didn’t wash their hands at all
⦁ on average, people wash their hands for 6 seconds

Healthy habits office

Find out more from health organizations:

CDC Centers for Disease Control

Everyday preventive actions

Keep up to date with flu season updates in the U.S.

Keep up to date on the coronavirus, what to expect, recommends and responses.

WHO World Health Organization

Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) advice for the public: Mythbusters

Learn more about what WHO’s information and guidance regarding the novel coronavirus.

Learn best practices to protect yourself and others from sickness, food safety habits, shopping and working in wet markets in China and SE Asia, and how to stay healthy whilst traveling.

MOH Singapore Ministry of Health

Keep up to date to what’s happening in Singapore.

NIH National Health Organization

Read more about 5 tips on Natural Products for the Flu and Colds: What Does the Science Say?

Keep it happy and healthy my friends!

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46 Comments

  • Brianne

    These are all excellent tips. I’m glad you included exercise, eating well, and drinking water in this post. We all remember to wash our hands and cover our mouths, but we forget that a healthy body is better able to fight off bacterial interlopers.

    • Sarah Emery

      You’re always in a safe admittance zone here 🙂 Me, too. When I counted the seconds I take to wash my hands. I realized I was missing a good 10 seconds and effective steps in proper hand hygiene. Now, we know 🙂 Thanks the read and comment Michael!

  • Scott DeNicola

    My day job is to work with Clinical Practice Guidelines for medical professionals from organizations like the CDC and Infectious Diseases Society so I appreciate you sharing this information. The simplest things that people can do are mentioned in here and include washing your hands and not coughing all over everyone. It seems so simple and straight forward but I see so many people not doing this. I use hand sanitizer when I leave a public place. Be especially wary of shopping carts in supermarkets!

    • Sarah Emery

      Oh wow! What interesting days you must have Scott – and thank you 🙂 Especially in the environment we are in at the moment. It’s so important to spread good hygiene practices 🙂 And -Yes, I do appreciate those who do not cough all over everyone. I appreciate your read and comment.

  • katrina Kroeplin

    great tips. washing hands is so big. i try and teach the kids that and are after them so much. i’m also after then about not touching their face too.

  • Lene Andersen

    As someone who lives with a suppressed immune system due to medication, may I offer you a standing ovation for this post! Thank you, thank you, thank you. All of your points are so important and really easy to do. There are a lot of things that we can do as individuals, but I think we also need to support of government and employers. So many companies are cracking down on absenteeism, which means more people come to work sick. The best way to avoid passing on a cold or flu is by not being around other people when you’re sick. Also flu shot. I rely on herd immunity to stay well.

    • Sarah Emery

      OH WOW! Cheers, Lene! Thank you for your virtual standing ovation. That’s so nice and I really appreciate that 🙂 A million thank you’s! Yes, I agree with you. Stay healthy and well. Thank you again, Lene!

    • Sarah Emery

      Yes!! Prevention is WAY better than having to deal with the flu. Uggg, the thought of it! The last time I had the flu was 7 years ago and it was horrible. To the point, that my fingernails were in pain. Awful! Stay healthy and well! Thanks for the read and comment Lyanna!

  • Stephanie S

    These are some great tips. I have two little ones at home, and prevention is always important when trying to keep everyone healthy, and cold free. I love the hand washing poster. I think all public restrooms should have that hanging up in them, lol. People need to be aware of these things. Thank you for sharing these healthy habits, and prevention tips with us.

  • Kelly Martin

    These are great tips for preventing colds and flu. The simple things like washing your hands and covering your mouth when coughing are so important. I’m eating lots of garlic and taking vitamins to keep me healthy.

  • Dreams Abroad

    Washing hands is a good habit but more importantly, helps not to spread the flu. Germs a breading there and sometimes children do not think about this. What a great resource to helping people to combat the common flu.

  • Julia

    Sorry, I’m not with you on that idea… I prefer to live life rather than stay alive. I keep good hygiene, but I won’t wear masks in public or take unnecessary vaccination. I wash my hands reasonably often, but I won’t do it every few minutes. I will touch my own face as many times as I feel like it. Of course, I agree that we should not sneeze and cough on others, needless to say, spit in public – it’s nasty and gross!

    I trained my immune system since childhood to be strong and healthy, so did my husband as we grew up in the same environment and we taught our son to do the same. None of us get sick often, and if we do catch a cold or flu every 5 years or so, we get over it within a week and continue enjoying the active lifestyle without the fear of being around people.

    There are people whose immune system is weak due to certain medical conditions, and some of your suggestions could be helpful to them. But it’s better to improve the social support system and focus on making it possible for these people to stay home during the high flu season. Let’s stop making us all prone to all kinds of illnesses by sterilizing everything and killing our immune system.

    I know that your point of view is supported by medical workers and some medical science, and it’s a common trend right now to sterilize everything. But I’ve also known many cases when today’s “scientifically-proven” facts and advice become the opposite tomorrow.

    Be well,

    ~ Julia

    • Sarah Emery

      That’s great you, your husband and son have strong immune systems. You and your family obviously take effective preventative measurements (e.g. live a healthy lifestyle), that was also mentioned in the post. While, I understand and respect your decision to never wear a mask. At the time of writing this, there are unfortunately millions of people who don’t have that option. As they are under government mandate to wear one whilst in public. If they decide not to comply, they are subject to such penalties such as jail time, high fines, and exposing themselves to potentially catching (then subsequently spreading) the COVID19 virus that is advancing globally. While the post doesn’t suggest to live in a highly sterilized environment. It’s more of a reminder to be responsible and accountable in proper hygiene (especially during flu season) and being socially responsible in ways not to spread harmful viruses. As I respect your opinion. I am neither in the medical profession, but do accept guidance from highly renowned global health organizations such as the W.H.O. Stay happy and healthy.

  • Lyosha

    Great advise. Washing hands is the most simple yet the most needed part. I always remember a note written one of my ex-job offices: you health is in your clean hands.

  • LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia

    I teach young children and so I’ve become very vigilant when it comes to having healthy habits to resist being consistently sick during cold and flu season. I always have hand sanitizer with me and I also take a supplement that naturally boosts my immune system which has made a huge difference for me.

  • Britt K

    It’s crazy that so many people still need to be reminded to wash their hands. Common knowledge like that should be a given and it would have a BIG impact on the overall health level of our communities. Such a small act can stop many illnesses in their tracks.

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