— By KATHY SMITH | Parker County Extension Office
We are often grateful for cooler weather. However, with cold weather comes colds and flu.
Each year 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans will get the flu. The common cold affects around 25 percent of the population each year. While there are not proven ways to prevent these, there are some precautions that may help you reduce your risk of feeling under the weather.
• Wash Your Hands. Most flu and cold germs are spread by direct contact. If you sneeze into your hand then shake someone’s hand or touch a door knob, the germs may stay around and spread for hours. When you wash your hands you are reducing the risk of spreading germs you may carry to your coworkers. Wash your hands often and you will take a big step to preventing a cold or the flu.
• Sneezes and Coughs. When a person sneezes or coughs, they may have the initial reaction to cover their nose or mouth with their hands. A better practice is to use a tissue or handkerchief. If you don’t have a tissue, turn your head away from people near you and cough into the air. If you do use your hands, remember to wash them immediately.
• Drink Plenty of Fluids. Your body cannot function properly without fluids and especially water. Water flushes your system, washing out poisons as it rehydrates you. Also, fruit juices give you hydration as well as vitamins and minerals. An average adult needs around 64 ounces, or 1.9 liters, of water each day. Dehydration is a common occurrence with any illness.
• Relax and Be Happy. Stress can have a negative effect on your health. Research shows that people with a positive attitude such as being relaxed, happy and energetic are less likely to catch colds than people who are nervous, angry or depressed. Healthy attitudes tend to promote healthy lifestyle habits.
• Sleep. Sleep plays an important role in your body’s ability to heal itself. Sleep is important for many functions of the body and plays a major role in preventing illness.
• Vaccinate. Though there is nothing that can be done about the common cold, a flu vaccine shot each year can help.
Studies shows that the flu shot reduces the number of people who contract pneumonia as a result of flu, upper respiratory infections, missed days at work and visits to the doctor. Even if the flu shot doesn’t prevent the flu, it can reduce the severity of symptoms and complications.
Prevention is your goal when it comes to the cold and flu. These steps for you and your family can help.
Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Parker County. Contact her at (817) 598-6168 or firstname.lastname@example.org.