Be Aware That a Flu Vaccine Won’t Protect You from a Cold
Getting a flu vaccination before flu season protects only against some pathogens of influenza predicted to be common for that particular flu season.7 So, while the vaccine may offer you protection from some influenza viruses that are expected to be common in the upcoming season, it cannot protect you from all. Washing your hands often with soap and water is one easy way to help prevent catching cold and flu.8
Take cover from Coughs and Sneezes
Respiratory viruses spread in three ways:9
- Through small droplets that are aerosolized by coughs or sneezes. These droplets do not settle and can carry germs over relatively long distances through the air that others can inhale.
- Through large droplets that are similarly transmitted through the air over relatively short distances and settle rapidly on objects and body parts.
- Through direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces.
Sleep Off a Cold
Not getting at least eight hours of sound sleep decreases your immune system’s ability to fight off a cold. Try to get a consistent seven to eight hours of good, quality sleep every night.10
Chill in the air? Don’t let it worry you.
Cold weather doesn’t give you a cold or flu, viruses do.10 However, spending more time indoors with other people during the cold season increases the likelihood you will be exposed to cold and flu viruses,11 especially because cold and flu viruses tend to thrive in the dry conditions that are typical in this season.4 You may breathe more germ-infested air, which can contribute to why you get sick more often in the winter.
Use Antibiotics Appropriately
Unless you are diagnosed with a bacterial infection, avoid asking a doctor to prescribe antibiotics for cold or flu symptoms. Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria and therefore are ineffective in treating viral infections resulting from cold and flu viruses.12 In fact, the CDC warns that taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to dangerous antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.13
Fight Off Germs While Travelling
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you only travel when you feel well, especially in the winter season.14 You can keep germs at bay by washing your hands often with soap and water when available.6 It may be wise to carry a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, for use when regular soap and water aren’t available or convenient.6