March 11, 2020

How to Stay Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

So far this flu season, the CDC estimates there have been between 22,000,000 to 31,000,000 recorded flu illnesses resulting in 210,000 to 370,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 30,000 deaths. While February sees peak flu activity, the winter cold and flu season can last as late as May.

According to the CDC, the flu is most contagious in the first three to four days after becoming ill. What most people don’t know is that you can be sick (and contagious) even before you notice symptoms. Young children and people with weakened immune systems run the highest risk of infecting others and for a longer period of time compared to the norm.

Fortunately, we can increase the likelihood of staving off the flu. The Puget Sound Ear Nose and Throat team suggests these tactics to help keep your family healthy this winter and spring.

Tip #1: Wash your hands

It may seem like a simple and maybe even obvious tip, but frequent handwashing truly is one of the easiest ways to remove germs that cause the flu, colds and other common viral illnesses.

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before preparing food
  • After blowing your nose or sneezing
  • After caring for someone who is sick
  • After using the bathroom, helping children use the bathroom or changing a diaper
  • After touching or feeding pets
  • After handling garbage
  • After touching surfaces that may be contaminated

Whenever possible use clean water and soap to wash your hands, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds to lift germs, dirt and grease from your skin. Don’t forget the back of your hands! Rinse with clean water, then dry with a clean towel or let your hands air dry. If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is an effective alternative, though it doesn’t remove all types of germs.

Tip #2: Avoid close contact

In general, avoid close contact with others when you’re sick and when they’re sick. Staying home is better for everyone. Not only will you avoid exposing others to your illness and reduce the spread of contagious viruses, but the rest will help you recover faster. If your child seems as though they are falling under the weather, err on the side of caution and allow them to stay home and get some rest.

Can’t avoid seeing others when you’re sick or they’re sick? Wash your hands as frequently as possible and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to reduce risk.

Tip #3: Cover your cough

When you cough and sneeze, tiny particles spread into the air around you, onto your hands or onto surfaces others might touch. Keep these germs from infecting others by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and toss the tissue into the garbage immediately.

Tip #4: Clean surfaces

Frequent cleaning with a disinfecting solution keeps germs from spreading at home, at school or in the workplace. Pay special attention to doorknobs, cabinet handles, phones and keyboards. If your office doesn’t have a regular cleaning plan, work together to set up a cleaning and disinfecting schedule of your own. Make sure your child’s school has the proper supplies to combat germs, such as hand sanitizer and tissues. It’s also smart to find out if your employer or school has a plan in place to address an unexpected outbreak of the flu or a similar viral illness.

Tip #5: Get a flu vaccination

The flu vaccine enables your body to develop the antibodies necessary to protect against infection. The flu shot is most common, but you can also get protection via a nasal spray or Jet Injector. The ideal time to get vaccinated is a couple of weeks before flu season – usually by the end of October. Since we’re already in the thick of the current flu season, get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect you throughout the rest of winter and into spring. If you’re unsure of where to receive a flu vaccination, the HealthMap Vaccine Finder can offer assistance.

If you have a question on how to keep your family from contracting viral illnesses like the flu, or if you suspect that you or a family member might be suffering from a cold or the flu, the doctors at Puget Sound Ear Nose and Throat can help. Schedule an appointment by calling (425) 775-6651 or visit our Contact Us page.