With the cold and flu season upon us, we all need to be healthy enough to avoid those ailments.
In order to prevent or treat an illness, you need to know what it is and its etiology, or cause. What causes the common cold or influenza? Both are caused by a wide variety of viruses. More than 200 different varieties of viruses can cause a cold. Neither is caused by bacteria, which is why antibiotics are useless in treating them.
Unfortunately, antibiotics are mistakenly prescribed far too often for colds and the flu. Overuse of these powerful drugs will increase your susceptibility to infections by bacteria with resistance to the over-used antibiotic. Try to be absolutely certain you have a bacterial infection before taking an antibiotic. The experience of a good health care provider, along with your history as a patient, will help determine whether it's a viral or bacterial infection.
People don't like to hear this, but when you have a cold or flu, you need to let it run its course. On a more positive note, there are things you can do to prevent these viruses from infecting your body in the first place.
The cold and flu are most commonly spread via hand-to-hand contact. For instance, somebody who has a cold or flu sneezes, blows or scratches their nose, then shakes your hand or touches an object that you also touch. You can't control what someone else does, but you can control what you do. Wash your hands and do not touch your face. This is the single most important rule to live by in order to prevent infection from a whole host of pathogens, not just the cold or flu.
What other ways can you reduce your exposure to germs, and your susceptibility to colds and the flu?
Wash Your Hands – As mentioned above, this is the #1 way to avoid getting sick. Scrub your hands with warm water and soap (many people don't use soap!) for at least 15 to 20 seconds after using the bathroom, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, eating, working, eating raw food or playing with pets. Anything less than 15 seconds won't do the job. Incredibly, studies show 95 percent of people say they wash their hands after using the bathroom, but only 67 percent really do it. Even worse, only 33 percent bother to use soap, and only 16 percent wash their hands long enough to remove germs.
Buyer beware: According to researchers at the University of Michigan, antibacterial soaps aren't any better than ordinary soaps for washing away germs. They also warn that antibacterial soaps may have the unwanted side effect of promoting antibiotic resistance in users.
Address Your Stress – Stress-related ailments and complaints account for75 to 90 percent of all doctor's office visits. Stress can affect your thoughts, feelings, behavior and your body. Left unchecked, stress can lead to health problems like depression, gastrointestinal disorders, sleep difficulty, diabetes, weight gain and immune system dysfunction. Stress can not only predispose you to an infection, it can make the infection/symptoms worse. Finding ways to manage daily stress, as well as your reactions to circumstances beyond your control, will contribute to a strong and resilient immune system.
Supplement with Vitamin D (D3 specifically) – In the largest study of its kind, 18,883 participants 12 years old and older were examined to see the association between serum D3 levels and upper respiratory tract infections. Those participants with the lowest vitamin D levels reported more recent colds or cases of the flu. The risk was even greater for those individuals with chronic respiratory disorders like asthma.
Based on the latest investigations by Carole Baggerly, director of GrassrootsHealth, the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels is 8,000 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D per day, if you're taking an oral supplement. For children, many experts agree they need about 35 IUs of vitamin D per pound of body weight.
Don't Touch the First Floor Elevator Button – Everybody touches the first floor button and eventually eats their lunch and/or picks their teeth without washing their hands. Many germs are found there because everybody returns to the first floor. Let someone else push the buttons so you don't have, use your elbow, or the back of your knuckle instead of your finger to press the button.
Dangerous Shopping Cart Handles – Shopping cart handles are prime culprits in the spread of germs. Some supermarkets now offer germ-killing wipes in the cart area. Bring your own if they don't. Use them to sanitize the cart handle and never put fresh produce in the cart seat, where diaper-aged children often sit. Wow! That's a bad thought.
Watch Those Escalator Handrails – Escalator handrails are loaded with germs. Don't touch them if you can manage without doing so.
Use the First Toilet – Research shows that most people use the middle stall in public bathrooms, so avoid those. More use means they're the dirtiest and have the most germs.
Office Coffee Pots are Dripping with Disease – Your office coffee pot and mug may have been cleaned with a sponge dripping with germs. Hang on to your own mug, and use a dishwasher when it's time to clean it. Another trick: Keep apple cider vinegar in the office and pour a water and cider solution through the coffee machine weekly. It will help kill bacteria.
Kitchen Woes – Be aware that kitchen sponges, dishcloths, the kitchen and bathroom sinks, cutting boards and even the bathroom floor carry more germs than a toilet seat. New research suggests that if you want to sterilize your sponge, put it in the microwave for two minutes. Research shows this gets rid of 99 percent of the bacteria.
Your Desk is Dirtier Than the Toilet Your Bare Ass Sits On – Who would have guessed the typical office desk area has 400 times the amount of bacteria than the average toilet seat. Worst offenders: the office phone, the desk and, finally, the keyboard. Use a disinfectant wipe to clean the desktop, computer keyboard and phone.
Restaurant Menus, ATMs, TV remotes, etc. – I could go on and on. The fact is germs are on virtually all surfaces. It's impossible to avoid them. They're part of life and of you, on your skin and inside your body. Unless you are willing to live in a bubble, you and germs are going to come in contact. The question is, are you going to follow the #1 rule (wash hands and don't touch your face), and be healthy enough to fight them off if you do come in contact?
With cold and flu season around the corner, now is the time to stock up on OTC medicines that help relieve multiple symptoms at once. Choose a brand that comes with both day and night formulations so you can work when you need to and rest when you want to.