The best methods probably feel familiar, for better or for worse. says Charles Bailey, MD, medical director of infection prevention at Providence Saint Joseph and Providence Mission Hospital, in Orange County, California.
No one is exposed to viruses and germs more than the medical professionals serving on the front lines. You may not be able to completely eliminate your risk of catching a cold, flu, or other viruses, but you can greatly reduce your chances with these pro tips.
1. Get a flu shot (and COVID too)
For Dr. Bailey, this one is a no-brainer. “Obviously, making sure you’re up-to-date on influenza and getting vaccinated against COVID-19 are important specific precautions you can take,” he says.
At a recent press conference, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said this year’s flu vaccine is a “very good match” for the viral strains currently circulating around the country. This translates into specific, targeted protection that can prevent you from getting injured or hospitalized.
More than 90 percent of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists get vaccinated against influenza annually. So if you really want to follow the science, it’s a good idea to roll up your sleeve (again) to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Remember that it takes two weeks before full protection from the vaccine begins.
2. Engage in frequent hand washing
Hand washing is essential to prevent colds and flu and the spread of germs. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this simple feat. Here’s how to practice hand hygiene like a medical professional:
- Use warm, soapy water to scrub your hands.
- Wash all areas of your fingers and hands up to the wrist for at least 15 to 20 seconds.
- Make sure to put under your nails and wash the spaces between each toe.
- Use an alcohol-based hand rub when washing hands isn’t an option.
- Once you’ve cleaned, try to keep your hands away from your mouth and nose.
3. Sterilize phones and other devices
If your phone and computer are in constant use (and you know they are, come on), they are literally crawling with germs. For this reason, experts at the FCC recommend practicing phone hygiene once a day.
To sanitize your equipment, use a lint-free cloth slightly dampened with soapy water. Do not saturate your device with liquid, or you may damage it. This goes without saying, but don’t try to clean it when it’s plugged in.
4. Avoid crowds as much as possible
Given the isolation of recent years, this can be difficult. To make it easier, try to follow Dr. Bailey’s advice to avoid crowds whenever possible, especially if they’re in poorly ventilated indoor spaces. This gives you the freedom to indulge in winter outdoor fun with less worry (think holiday markets, ice skating, and shopping with friends).
5. When in doubt, wear a mask
If you’ve already gotten rid of your KN95, consider grabbing a new box. Unless you are immunocompromised or caring for someone who is at high risk of getting sick, you may not feel the need to wear a mask at all times. However, this simple intervention has been shown to reduce transmission of the virus and provide protection for those you come into contact with.
Consider keeping a mask tucked in your bag or pocket so you have it on hand, should the need arise. You never know when you’ll find yourself on a super crowded bus, or around someone who can’t stop coughing. instead of wondering, Will this be the time I get sick? You can shut down this concern by masking it.
After all, preventing yourself and others from catching a cold or the flu is all about effort. As Dr. says. Bailey, “Personally, I will continue to observe all of the above recommendations. At least if I do get sick, I can take comfort in knowing that I have not failed to benefit from this common sense, evidence-based advice.”
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