Colds and Flu--What You Can Do
How Germs Spread
Illnesses like the flu (influenza) and colds are caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu and colds usually spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
How to Help Stop the Spread of Germs
Take care to:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
- Clean your hands often
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Stay home when you are sick and check with a health care provider when needed
- Practice other good health habits.
Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands, if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze. You may be asked to put on a surgical mask to protect others.
Clean your hands often
When available, wash your hands -- with soap and water -- then rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces. Wash for 15 to 20 seconds. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs.
When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using a gel, rub the gel in your hands until they are dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in the gel kills germs that cause colds and the flu.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs can live for a long time (some can live for 2 hours or more) on surfaces like doorknobs, desks, tables, telephones, office equipment, paperwork, pens/pencils, etc.
Get your seasonal flu shot
The seasonal flu shot will not protect you from pandemic flu, but it will help you stay healthy.
Stay home when you are sick and check with a health care provider when needed
Remember: Keeping your distance from others may protect them from getting sick.
Practice other good health habits
Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.