Ooh! Pick me!
Background: I teach college biology, and I’m knee-deep in student illness during cold and flu season. I have never taken a sick day from teaching in almost 4 years, except for one that was a kidney infection and not an actual cold or flu.
Here’s my advice:
1) Vitamin C is fine and dandy, and I used to take Airborne all the time. It upsets my stomach now, so I just try to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
2) Get lots of sleep! Aim for that 8 hours. It’s good for your immune system.
3) Do not touch your face. Ever. No matter what. Especially at the office. The mucus membranes in your mouth, around your eyes, and in your nose are gateways for germs to enter the body, and so many people subconsciously scratch at their eyes, bite their nails, etc. Break yourself of that habit now. Cold and flu viruses live on so many surfaces that people touch, such as door knobs, countertops, light switches, etc.
4) Wash your hands! It should be common sense, but use soap and warm water, scrub for 20 seconds (Sing Happy Birthday to yourself for timing purposes), and rinse. Do not use air dryers. Studies have shown that they breed bacteria and blow bacteria from the floor into the air of public restrooms (gross, I know…). Use paper towels to turn off faucets and open doors. I always wash my hands before eating and literally will touch nothing other than my food to avoid cross-contamination.
5) Hands-off the cell phone or computer when eating! I taught a biology lab where students grew bacteria on petri dishes that they sampled from common household surfaces, and the cultures from cell phones were waaaaaay more disgusting than toilet seats or anything else. The problem is that people hardly every clean their cell phones, but how many times do you see people take their phones with them into the bathroom, leave them on tables and communal surfaces, etc.? People also love to multi-task when eating or at a restaurant and check their phones will at dinner or eating at their desks. Don’t do it! If I’m at dinner with my husband, the phone goes away and stays away until we’re finished eating.
6) Wash your hair after being around sick people. I’m not sure if this has any scientific merit, but my mom told me of a teacher she knew that never got sick even when around a bunch of sick kids because she washed her hair every day. It makes sense to me that germs could stick to your hair and then get transferred to your pillow while you’re sleeping, so I try to wash my hair a bit more frequently during cold and flu season, especially if I’ve been in a lab teaching all day with students coughing and clearly sick.
7) Get your flu shot! I’ve been getting a flu shot every year since high school, and I’ve never gotten the flu. Even last year, when it didn’t work well, I still didn’t get the flu, and hubby had both strains of flu AND strep during that season. It was horrible. Even some protection is better than no protection, as long as you don’t have any medical reasons that disqualify you from getting the shot.
So far my overly paranoid strategy has worked! I HATE being sick, so I’m probably a bit more neurotic about germs than most folks. Best of luck staying well!