6 Cold and Flu Tips to Keep You Healthy

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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All of a sudden, everyone around you is coughing and sneezing—or worse, you already feel yourself starting to come down with a cold. What can you do to stay healthy with all of the germs floating around this time of year?

Use these 6 tips to feel better, and keep from spreading winter illnesses.

    1. Can I get a Z-Pak with that?75% of all antibiotic prescriptions are written for upper respiratory infections—most of which are viral and will go away on their own. This isn’t good. In addition to promoting antibiotic resistance, antibiotic use accounts for over 19% of emergency department visits for adverse drug events.
    2. To rinse or not to rinse?

Nasal irrigation works for a stuffy or runny nose from a cold or allergies. A squeeze bottle like NeilMed Sinus Rinse or a Neti Pot are commonly used. You can safely rinse out your nose a few times per day with a cold or sinusitis.

  1. Am I contagious?Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. This means you can pass on your cold or flu before you are sick as well as while you have symptoms.
  2. Exercise and cold or flu.Exercising while sick neither hurts nor helps. While heavy exercise may predispose you to cold and flu, moderate amounts may be protective. Heavy exercise may contribute to the development of common respiratory tract infections and potentially make a cold and flu more severe or last longer.
  3. Sneezing on a jet plane.Airplanes are perfect for germs: the air is recirculated and you are in close proximity to others. Viruses survive for short periods in the air and on surfaces like tray tables, seat backs and arm rests of airliners. Already congested? Sudafed or a saline nasal spray 30 minutes before takeoff will help avoid painful sinus or ear pressure on takeoff and landing.
  4. Talk to the hand.Your best weapon against cold and flu viruses is washing your hands. Use soap and warm water and rub hands together as the friction may be the reason hand washing really works. Wash hands for 15-20 seconds. Don’t want to count? Try washing while you sing Happy Birthday twice or your ABCs once.

Dr O.

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