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Keeping Colds and Other Contagious Infections Contained

Sure, we all want to avoid getting sick. However, most of the time we find out it's usually too late to guard against colds, flu, and other contagious illnesses. That's because we can be exposed to the illness before the person who has it shows any symptoms.

For example, a family member may sneeze several times at the dinner table before coming down with a full-blown cold the next day. Even the early sneezes, though, probably exposed you and other members of your household to the cold virus. The flu can be contagious about a day prior to the onset of symptoms, and strep throat can be contagious as much as five days prior to onset.

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However, if someone in your household has a common cold or other contagious bug, you can take some precautions to keep catchy infections from taking over your home. Here are some "stay-well" strategies to prevent illness and keep catchy infections contained.

Top of Your List for Infection Protection

Immunizations have reduced or eliminated diseases such as smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), and polio. But despite the success of vaccines, contagious diseases still often outwit the best efforts to control them. For instance, there is concern now about a resurgence of whooping cough, which is most contagious before the coughing actually starts. The best way to prevent whooping cough is still through vaccinations. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP, and there's also a whooping cough booster vaccine for adolescents and adults ages 19 through 64 called Tdap. The booster not only protects against whooping cough, but also against tetanus and diphtheria.

The moral is: No matter what your age, talk to your doctor to see if you are current with all of your immunizations. You should also make sure you get a flu shot annually to protect yourself from influenza, and if you are in the group of people who need one, you should get the pneumococcal vaccine as well. It can help protect you against pneumonia.

Remember, though, while a flu shot is one of the best ways to avoid the flu, the vaccines aren't always 100% effective. And flu, if you catch it, can lead to serious respiratory complications such as pneumonia or bacterial bronchitis. So in addition to making sure you have all your immunizations and shots, you should also know about and use the following "stay-well" strategies to prevent illness and keep catchy infections contained.

Six Prevention Strategies to Use Every Day

Preventing any illness, including the common cold, begins with the following six basic prevention strategies:

  • Think of hand washing as a survival skill. (There's more on hand washing later in this article.)
  • Never touch your mouth, nose, or eyes without washing your hands.
  • Teach your kids not to share food and other things that go in the mouth, as in guzzling milk from the carton or double dipping chips.
  • Encourage family members to cover their mouths with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and to dispose of the tissue themselves. No time to grab a tissue? Cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow instead of your hands.
  • Avoid sharing personal items like toiletries, towels, and pillows.
  • Get proper rest and good nutrition to improve resistance and bolster immunity.

 

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