The easiest way to stay healthy this cold and flu season is to stop doing the same old silly things that landed you stuffed up and coughing under the covers last year. C'mon, you know better!
You probably even know what you did wrong, but...you're still doing it. Call us a nag if you must, but here's how we'd really like you to get your act together. (The Power Nutrient Solution is the first-ever plan that tackles the root cause of virtually every major ailment and health condition today.)
You're washing your hands like a toddler.
If you do some kind of quick-splashing thing in the sink followed by an "all done!", you brought this cold on yourself. Wash like an adult and you can cut your risk of getting sick by 16 percent. That means lathering up with running water and soap (can't believe we really had to say that) for at least 20 seconds. When you're nowhere near a sink, a 60 percent alcohol hand sanitizer is a good runner up, according to the CDC.
If you're not a doctor, nurse, or currently visiting one, there are 5 major moments to make sure your hands are clean, says Jim Arbogast, PhD, vice president of hygiene sciences and public health advancements for skin health and hygiene company GOJO Industries.
Those critical times are:
1. before caring for someone who's already sick
2. after you leave that person's cold-infested bedroom
3. before preparing food
4. after preparing food
5. before you eat that delicious food you just prepared (were you on Top Chef?!)
But don't forget you're exposed to germs basically all the time, and a few other times that also probably warrant a wash include after touching subway poles, escalator handrails, and even restaurant menus, Arbogast says.
You're absentmindedly touching your face again.
The problem with the germs you accumulate on your hands is that you're likely to give them a free ticket right where they want to go: in. "It's a behavior that's hard to change," Arbogast says about us chronic face touchers. "You probably have potentially illness-causing micro-organisms"—meaning, germs—"on your fingers, and if you touch mucous membranes"—meaning your eyes, nose, and mouth—"they can transfer from your fingers into your bloodstream." Skin is your suit of armor against those bugs; when you so cavalierly touch your eyes, nose and mouth, you're essentially laying out a welcome mat. (Check out the 10 worst germ hot spots you touch every day.)
You still think sleep is for the weak. In a recent study, people who logged fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night were 4 times more likely to catch a cold than people who slept for 7 or more hours. Getting less than 5 hours was even worse, with a 4.5 times higher risk of colds. Spare us the excuses for why you just can't find the time for more sleep—that next episode on Netflix will still be there tomorrow. Make this year the one where you finally commit to 7 hours a night. Try drinking tart cherry juice throughout the day.
You tolerate employees who show up to your office sick.
Remember the last time you came to work sneezing and barely got anything done? You know you're less productive at the office when you're under the weather, but you also put other people's health at risk, too. And fast: After just 4 hours, germs from one sick employee can be found on more than half of all communal areas in an office and on a quarter of all employees' hands, according to a 2014 study. So a) stop doing it yourself and b) stop encouraging it. Ask how you can lighten the load of your sick employees or co-workers and send them packing. (While we're on the topic, can we talk about how the United States is the only developed country without a federal law for paid sick days?!)
You're still shaking hands.
Again with the touching. Greeting someone is a perfect opportunity to transmit germs from their filthy fingers to yours, which, as we've discussed earlier, you're then probably going to put near your own face. Yes, you can pick up the occasional bug from someone who sneezes near you, Arbogast says, but it's kinda rare. "Around 80% of illnesses are transmitted by hands," he says. Go for a high five or a fist bump (if you're cool enough to pull it off): They exchange only half as many bacteria as an old-fashioned shake. Or fib a little if you must: "I have a cold I don't want you to catch" will make you sound like the compassionate one, not a conniving cold-avoider, when you leave a hand-shaker hanging.
You're running on empty.
A hectic day here and there won't doom you to sniffledom, but if you're constantly, chronically stressed it starts to take a physical toll on your immune system, making you less likely to be able to fight off all the germs around you. In fact, in one study, the most stressed folks had about twice the amount of colds than the least stressed people. We know it's not always easy to chill—anyone else already feel behind on holiday shopping?!—but find ways to give yourself a break, even if they're tiny, like listening to your favorite song during a frazzled afternoon or pausing to reflect on what you're grateful for, even if today it's just coffee.