HOW TO PREVENT THE COLD OR THE FLU
The winter months bring crisp weather, comfy sweaters and scarves, and often the hallmark sniffling and sneezing of the common cold or the flu. Much of winter remains, so let’s go over some simple steps you can take to ensure that the colder months aren’t spent in bed with a box of tissues.
1: Be knowledgeable about the basics of colds and the flu.
- Colds and influenza are not caused by bacteria. Hence, antibiotics do not help prevent or cure a cold or flu.
- Cold and flu germs outside a host body usually die in three to seven days.
- Cold and flu viruses multiply more quickly when it is cool and they first multiply in your nasal passageways then spread from there.
- Most colds and the flu are caught by placing infected hands to your eyes or nose or in your mouth
- You can infect others a day before your symptoms appear.
- Incubation period is usually 3 days, but can range anywhere from 1 – 4 days.
- Rarely fatal on its own, the flu can lead to fatal secondary infections such as pneumonia, if one has a weakened immune system. This can be detected by worsening cough, hardship with breathing, coughing up blood, and /or a persistent and recurring fever. Immediate medical attention is essential…Call your athletic trainer or doctor.
- There are thousands of strains of influenza viruses; this means that it’s unlikely that your doctor can pinpoint the exact virus you’ve got but will suggest your treatment based on the traditional pathway of a virus.
- It is possible to either aid or hinder the body’s immune system by things we eat, drink, or do.
2: Practice good hygiene.
The principal means for transferring a virus is through contact with an infected person. As such, it is important to wash hands frequently and to cover the mouth and nose when sneezing. Using a tissue is best, but if you don’t have one, cough or sneeze into your elbow, as opposed to your hands, to keep transmission down. Immediately wash or sanitize your hands after a cough or sneeze and avoid touching your face if you are spending time with someone who has a cold, or if you’ve been touching things like door knobs and surfaces in public places.
- Avoid giving out pencils, paper, laptops, phones and other items and refrain from borrowing these things when a cold or flu season is in full swing.
- Clean shared objects regularly to prevent transmission of the virus. (furniture in locker rooms, equipment used in your sport, remote controls, etc.)
- Keep towels and clothes separate for each member of your apartment/dorm room. Viral germs can live for hours on cloth towels.
- Keep all surfaces clean during cold and flu season. Use a disinfectant solution and wipe down surfaces, door knobs, sinks, light switches, keyboards, etc… with regularity.
- Carry around a bottle of antiseptic wipes or gel.
3. Decrease contact or being in close proximity with people who have a cold or the flu where possible.
Complete avoidance is best when people are sick, but since this is not possible for most college student-athletes, try and minimize time in enclosed spaces, keep your hands clean and away from your face, and be sure to shower immediately post practice and/or bodily contact with others.
4. Keep as healthy as you can by taking good care of yourself.
There are sleep, well-being and nutritional considerations to take into account when trying to prevent the onset of a cold or flu.
- Get adequate sleep every night -aim for at least seven to eight hours nightly.
- Eat healthily. Healthy foods such as vegetables, fruit, grains, etc. are an important part of keeping your body nutrition at its optimum. Studies suggest that sugary foods can decrease immune function for up to five hours.
- Exercise regularly.
- Reduce your stress levels. Stress can harm the ability of your immune system to work optimally.
- Keep well hydrated. Dehydration inhibits the immune system’s functioning.
- Avoid smoking or being around smoke.
5. Get vaccinated.
The flu can be prevented or lessened through vaccinations, and vaccines change from year to year to keep up with the viral changes so that they target the most likely flu doing the rounds for that season.
6. Stay warm.
Although getting cold doesn’t actually cause a cold or flu, being cold can reduce your stamina and make you feel miserable and fatigued. If your body feels cold and you have already been exposed to the flu or cold virus, your personal reaction to the cold may be enough to allow the flu or cold to take hold. If practicing outdoors during the winter months, make sure to dress in plenty of layers and follow these basics:
- Several layers around the core of the body
- Long pants designed to insulate. On very cold days, a nylon shell or wind pant can be worn on top of
them for additional wind break
- Long sleeve shirt/sweatshirt/coat designed to insulate and break the wind
- Ear protection/Hat (this should be done even when wearing a helmet)
- Face protection (a layer of skin lube will insulate your face from the wind and harsh conditions)
- Wicking socks that do not hold moisture inside