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Wellness Guide: Preventing the Common Cold & Flu this Winter

November 8, 2018 by The Parrish Law Firm


Winter is approaching quickly, which means sore throats, sniffles, fevers and exhaustion are as well. We, for the health of our community, have put together a guide for you and your family to stay sickness-free and avoid cold viruses and the flu virus through the colder months.

Why are you more exposed to the cold and flu in the fall and winter?

People tend to spend more time indoors and in closer proximity during these months as it is too cold to lounge outside. Due to this close proximity it is easier to spread a contractable virus amongst peers, family and friends.

How can I avoid getting sick?

The cold and flu viruses, despite popular belief, are not spread from saliva, but instead by mucus. Often times saliva does contain mucus from sinuses and nasal congestion draining down the back of a sick person’s throat, which means you should avoid sharing utensils and drinks with anyone that is infected, but accidentally sharing a fork or a quick kiss does not necessarily mean you are doomed to get sick.

Coughing and sneezing are the most effective way for people to spread viruses. A cough typically spans up to 3 feet, which means if you must be in close proximity of someone that is sick, it is best to keep a 3 or 4 foot distance from them if possible. Sneezes travel more than twice the distance at 6 to 8 feet. Unless you want to sit in another room, the best advice is to remind those that are ill to sneeze into their inner arm, opposite of their elbow. If you see a friend or family member sneeze into their hands, be sure to tell them to wash their hands because if they touch any objects such as the TV remote or a door knob, you may pick up the virus from these objects.

Hand washing goes a long way when it comes to staying healthy. Wash your hands every 1-2 hours if you are in a public environment such as work or at the mall. Another great practice is to wash your hands once you come home from spending time out and about as you do not want to spread “outside germs” around your living space. If you shake someone’s hand, be sure to rinse your hands with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds because you never know if they are carrying a cold or flu virus.

A general rule of thumb is to avoid touching your eyes, nose or face during the fall and winter months. We know this is easier said than done, but it is an effective way to avoid transferring cold or flu molecules from surfaces you may touch with your hands to your face. If you need to rub your eyes, consider doing so with a towelette or after washing your hands. Also, avoid biting your nails for obvious reasons.

There is a theory that going outside without enough layers will make you sick. The reality is you can only get the cold or flu if exposed to these viruses; however, this theory is still partially true. If you go outside without a coat in 40 degree weather, your immune system will weaken from your body’s reaction to the cold, which means any exposure you may have to viruses can infect you more easily.

A few quick tips to remember:

  • Getting 8 hours of sleep keeps your immune system at its strongest.
  • Smoking inhibits many of your bodies defenses at protecting you from the cold or flu.
  • You should get the flu shot. Though in 2017 the flu shot was only effective with 30% of the active flu viruses during the season, that still cuts your chances of catching the flu by 1/3.
  • If you are sick, try your best to avoid others and to limit how much you are coughing and sneezing freely into the air as you will likely end up making your family and friends sick.
  • While the washer does nothing to deactivate contagious viruses, running clothing and sheets in the dryer for 28+ minutes on high heat kills cold or flu viruses.

How long does the cold and flu virus live on various surfaces? 

When it comes to how long the cold and flu viruses can live outside the body, there are a few factors to consider — is the surface hard, porous or is this surface your own skin?

Hard Surfaces — The flu virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. While the cold virus remains active on hard surfaces for up to 7 days, its ability to cause infection reaches almost 0 after 18 hours.

Porous Surfaces — The cold and flu virus remain active on porous surfaces such as sponges and clothing for up to 12 hours.

Skin — The cold and flu virus remains active on skin for only an hour or so, but that can be plenty of time for you to infect yourself or others.

We hope this guide helps you stay sickness free this winter. As a final tip, remember to stay hydrated as the cold and flu are more prone to infecting those that are dehydrated.

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