Weekly challenge: 6 ways to sidestep flu germs

With the flu, cold viruses, and gastrointestinal bugs circulating widely this winter, practicing good hygiene is a must to help lower your risk of getting infected or infecting others. Here’s what the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

1. Wash your hands frequently. Lather up with soap and rub hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds to help remove germs. Remember to clean the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and under your fingernails. Rinse well, and dry hands with disposable towel or air dryer. If possible, use a towel to turn off the faucet to keep from getting more germs on your hands.

2. Carry liquid anti-bacterial lotion. This can be used in a pinch if you don’t have access to a sink to wash your hands.

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3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stick to waves and air kisses instead of handshakes and lip-to-skin contact. When you’re sick, extend the same courtesy, and also avoid preparing food for loved ones. A reminder: the flu is most contagious during the first five days of symptoms and norovirus can remain contagious for two days after symptoms disappear.

4. Cover your mouth and nose. Sneeze into your elbow if possible, and cover your nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. This is a toughie since we do this hundreds of times a day without even thinking about it. Tips I found on breaking this habit include rubbing vinegar or some other foul-smelling liquid on your hands and holding a stress ball to keep hands otherwise engaged. Setting an hourly reminder on your smartphone could also work.

6. Practice other good health habits. Because flu viruses can live for a day or two on surfaces, spray down counters, tables, and bathroom surfaces with a disinfectant daily when someone in the house is sick. Don’t forget doorknobs and faucet handles. Also, get adequate sleep, avoid excess stress if possible, exercise, and eat nutritious meals to keep your immune system in full working order.

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