Prevent the Flu - No HAZMAT Suit Necessary! - Quicken Loans Zing BlogEvery year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tries to predict the strains of flu that will be most common based on data from around the globe. They then incorporate these strains into the flu vaccine. This year, they guessed wrong.

This is not to say you shouldn’t get the vaccine. Even if it isn’t protecting against the most common strain, it’s still effective against some versions of the virus. It’s important to realize, however, that there are some things you can do, without medical intervention, to control the spread of viruses and bacteria.

Germ Removal

Although viruses like influenza can last as long as 48 hours on hard surfaces, they may only last a few minutes on our hands. Still, a handshake or other form of personal contact is the most common way to become infected, according to The Mayo Clinic.

The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will be useful. Also try to avoid rubbing your eyes or nose before washing your hands.

Germs do last longer on surfaces than on tissue, so it’s important to disinfect the things you touch as well. This can be done with sprays and wipes. If you’re not sure if a door handle is clean, you can always open it with your shirt sleeve.

Containment and Prevention

There are a lot of reasons to sneeze or cough. Most of the time, sneezing or coughing doesn’t even mean you’re sick. If you’ve ever had wasabi or hot sauce, you know that these things have a tendency to evacuate the sinuses. Sometimes sneezing and coughing are caused by allergies.

Because the early signs that tell your body you’re sick could also be caused by other factors, we sometimes don’t heed the warnings until later. With that in mind, there are some things you can do to contain the spread of germs.

You should try to avoid coughing or sneezing directly into your hand, as you will be touching surfaces and other people. Use a tissue or handkerchief whenever possible. If you have neither of these, you can cough and sneeze into your elbow. When my younger sister was in elementary school, they called this the “vampire cough” (or sneeze). You pretend as though you’re Count Dracula lifting up his cape.

Getting enough sleep is also important for immunity. A study published in 2009 had participants self-report the number of hours of sleep they got at night, as well as their sleep efficiency (the amount of time spent in bed actually asleep) over a two-week period. After this, participants were exposed to a version of the common cold via nasal spray.

Those who got less than seven hours of sleep were 2.94 times more likely to become infected. Participants who lay in bed awake 9% of the time or more were 5.50 times more likely to get the cold.

Finally, if you have a fever, don’t go out. This is when you’re most contagious. The CDC says your fever should be gone at least 24 hours without using fever medication before you go out again.

Do you have any tips for preventing illness? Share them with us in the comments section.

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