The busy time of year has arrived again. The season of celebrations and gatherings. The season of activities and shopping. And it’s almost 2020!

It’s also the time of year when colds and flus are going around. It’s inevitable that these things spread, because people are getting together more frequently and in larger groups. We’re sharing food and drink, and there’s just more opportunity for nasty bugs to get to us.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid them and keep the whole family healthy, so everyone can enjoy the season.

  1. Get vaccinated

This year’s flu season promises to be especially nasty. On the plus side, this year’s flu vaccine has been shown to be very effective. It will help keep you from getting the flu, and even more, from passing it on to others around you.

It’s especially important for people with other health conditions, such as heart disease or asthma, seniors, residents of nursing homes and other long-term facilities, those who work in such facilities, health care providers and pregnant women.

Getting vaccinated is easy and risk-free. Everyone over the age of six months should get a flu vaccination each year. There are a few categories of people who should not get a flu shot, so talk to your doctor.

  1. Make hand washing a habit

Health professionals know that frequent hand washing is the best way to reduce the spread of germs. Make it a habit for yourself and your children, at every opportunity but especially before eating or meeting other people.

It’s also important to do it right: wet your hands, and lather up with soap long enough to sing “happy birthday” twice, then rinse thoroughly.

  1. Use hand sanitizer

If you cannot get to a sink, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Studies show that solutions with at least 60 percent alcohol are 60 to 95 percent more effective than liquids with lower concentrations.

Be aware, though, that an alcohol rub is not as effective as warm water and soap, especially for cleaning your hands if you’ve sneezed onto them.

  1. Disinfect surfaces

Germs can live on surfaces for hours, and infect anyone who touches them. Use disinfectant often, especially on counters and other surfaces in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Take a disinfectant wipe to door handles, gym equipment, phones, light switches and remote controls. And don’t neglect the computer keyboard, which many fingers are touching many, many times every day.

Don’t forget about teddy bears and other plush toys — they’re ideal breeding grounds for all sorts of nasty things. Towels and bed clothes can also harbor infectious germs and viruses. Wash these in the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric, and use color-safe bleach to kill germs. And use a basket to carry dirty laundry, instead of hugging it close to your body.

  1. Get enough sleep

Studies show that adults who get less than seven hours of sleep every night are three times more likely to catch colds. Quality sleep strengthens your immune system, enabling you to better fight off infections.

Children need more sleep, so make bedtime a strict routine.

  1. Eat healthy

Your diet can help boost your immune system. Research shows that vitamin C can help fight off colds and even help you recover more quickly.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables for a full range of vitamins and minerals. Fermented foods like yogurt, aged cheeses, sauerkraut, kimchee and miso have also been found to boost your immune system.

Drink lots of fluids, too, especially water.

  1. Get fresh air

One reason colds and flus spread so fast when it’s cold out is that everyone, healthy or not, is inside, sharing the same air. Open the window or door, or going outside, even for a short time, helps you get fresh air into your lungs.

It can also help clear out your lungs and make you feel better, even if you are sick.

  1. Stay active

Regular exercise also boosts your immune system. Fit people are less likely to catch cold and flu, and have stronger immune systems, which means they’re better able to fight off infections. Don’t let cooler weather stop you from taking care of yourself.

  1. Stay away from sick people

It seems obvious: avoid obviously infected people. Colds and flu are highly contagious, which means that they spread easily. A sneeze can spread germs up to 25 feet, and they can linger in the air for up 10 minutes.

Of course, avoiding sick people is hard to do when they’re your children. When you’re caring for a sick family member, remember to wash your hands every time you touch them, and make sure they wash their hands even more frequently.

If you do get sick

Despite our best efforts, everyone gets sick sometimes. If you come down with a cold or flu, some steps can help prevent you from passing it on to others as well as shorten its duration:

  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue and throw it into the trash immediately. If you don’t have a tissue handy, sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not onto your hands.
  • Don’t touch your face. Viruses can get into your system in droplets through your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Stay home from work or school. Don’t share the misery.
  • Change your sleeping arrangements, if possible.
  • Don’t share washcloths, towels, dishes, utensils or toys.

Don’t let it get worse

A cold can weaken your immune system and turn into something more serious. If you or a family member develop a fever or other worse systems, seek professional health care in case you need antibiotics or other treatment.

If you are concerned whether preventive treatment or a doctor’s visit will be covered by your medical insurance, give us a call for some advice.