‘Tis the season that pathogens look forward to all year round—microscopic marauders known as viruses and bacteria run rampant, passing from host-to-host on door handles, handshakes, and the sneezes and coughs of sick persons.
Nobody wants to spend a week or two lying in bed, hacking, wheezing, and shivering their way back to good health. Unfortunately, unless you are willing to lock yourself inside an airtight spacesuit until the spring thaw, you simply can’t hide from other people’s cooties.
Cleanliness Is Next to Healthiness
So, what can you do to maintain a healthy home during the cold-and-flu season? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the best way to protect yourself from pathogenic invaders is to be vigilant about washing your hands and be mindful about disinfecting the objects and areas where you are most likely to encounter germs. Use disinfectant wipes to keep door handles, cellular devices, tablets, and countertops germ-free. When you venture into the outside world, keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer tucked away in your purse or jacket so you can mitigate your risk of exposure.
Moisturize Your Sinuses
Another way to keep your home healthy during the winter months is by investing in a good humidifier. If the air in your home becomes too dry, your nasal passages can become irritated and inflamed, leaving an open door for germs to begin an assault on your immune system. In a study conducted by Oregon State University, atmospheric scientist Dr. Jeffrey Shaman discovered that environments where absolute humidity levels are low “strongly favor influenza survival and transmission.”
In Shaman’s findings, he noted that the influenza virus’s survival and transmission rates fluctuated between 70-77% in an environment with low humidity, but that the virus’s infectivity and survival rates plummeted to 14% when the humidity level was 43% or above. In short, the flu virus thrives in dry air—maintaining a healthy humidity level in your home during the winter months will significantly reduce your risk of getting sick, and improve your respiratory health, the quality of your sleep, and the appearance of your skin.
Take Better Care of Yourself
Having clean hands and moist air is all fine and dandy, but no amount of hand sanitizer can keep you healthy if you have compromised your immune system by not addressing stress, eating a poor diet, and a losing out on much-needed sleep. Drinking plenty of water, sleeping no fewer than seven hours per night, and eating antioxidant-rich foods such as Goji berries, artichokes, kale, and dark chocolate, will keep your immune system running at its peak performance. Exercising, practicing yoga, and meditating are just a few of the healthy approaches you could take to managing your day-to-day stress level.
Minimize Your Risk of Exposure
If you struck-out on convincing your friend at NASA to loan you one of those airtight spacesuits, you can still protect yourself from airborne bacteria by wearing a surgical mask every time you enter an environment where large groups of germ-carriers congregate.
Airports, shopping malls, movie theaters, grocery stores, and public transportation hubs all are places where you’re likely to encounter viruses. Any environment where the air is re-circulated—commercial airliners come to mind—is an environment where you should do everything possible to protect your immune system. Restaurants are another environment for potential exposure (think about the number of germ-laden hands the menus, condiment containers, and saltshaker pass through before the restaurant’s staff has a chance to sanitize those items at the end of the day.)
Although you cannot completely protect your home and family members from coming down with a cold or contracting the flu bug, taking the steps listed above will significantly reduce your risk of falling ill this winter.