How Not to Get Sick this Winter

It is never fun to get sick, especially at this time of year with final exams roaring around the corner and holiday parties and get-togethers in the coming up in the next few weeks.

Although many people may immediately think of the toilet as being the top place for germs in your house, it is actually the kitchen sink – which is followed closely by the dishcloth or sponge. Hard objects like desks, tables, and door handles are able to hold germs for a substantial time.  One of the simplest ways to avoid illness is thorough handwashing. Although it may seem like a mundane task that is learned at a young age, it remains an important step in protecting the immune system. It is important to wash hands before preparing food, before eating, after using the toilet, after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose, and before and after visiting sick people.

In order to properly wash hands, you should: remove any rings from fingers, wet hands, apply a small amount of soap to the center of the palm and lather for at least twenty seconds, rinse hands with warm water, and dry hands. If possible, try not to touch the faucet with your hands to avoid contact with germs. Alcohol-based hand cleansers can be used as a substitute if water or soap is not available. However, the hand cleansers remove both good and bad forms of bacteria.

Another key way to avoid getting sick is to reduce the amount you touch your face. When touching your face with your hands, you are transferring bacteria from the surfaces in contact with the hands to your eyes, nose, or mouth. The research team from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland found that the average person touches his or her face 3.6 times per hour, while handling common objects 3.3 times per hour. By limiting the frequency of touching your face, you limit the number of potential opportunities to bring bacteria into your system.

Other ways to prevent illness are maintaining a well-balanced diet, staying properly hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, daily exercise, and taking a vitamin D supplement, all of which contribute to a healthy immune system.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 15, December 11, 2012.