SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. -- If there’s one thing sure to take the happy out of your day, it’s coming down with a cold, or worse yet, the flu. Every year between December 1 and February 28, nearly 65 million Americans contract the flu. Numbers for the common cold are even higher. Most adults average two to three colds a year, and children have even more.
Colds and flu are caused by viruses that are passed from person to person through the air and by close contact. You can also pick up a virus by coming into contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions. This often happens when someone with a cold carries the virus on his hands, then touches a subway pole, cash machine or other public surface. The next person who touches that same surface picks up the virus.
While nothing is certain to protect you from catching a cold or the flu, there are some actions you can take to reduce your chances. One of the simplest and most effective is to wash your hands properly — and often. Hand sanitizers may be convenient, but they can’t take the place of hand washing. Follow these steps when washing your hands and you will reduce your chances of infecting yourself and others.
1.) Wet your hands with running water. The water can be warm or cold.
2.) Apply soap, lather well and rub your hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds.
3.) Be sure to spread the soap on all parts of your hands — the backs, between fingers and under nails.
4.) Rinse your hands well under running water.
5.) Dry your hands with a clean fabric or paper towel, or by using an air dryer.
6.) Turn off the faucet with your elbow, if possible, or use a towel. If you are in a public lavatory, try to do the same with the restroom door.
While there is no vaccine to help prevent the common cold, there is a vaccine against the flu. The Centers for Disease recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone six months or older. This is especially important for anyone who is at high risk of having medical complications from the flu, including young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions such as COPD, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS.
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