Preventing Cold & Flu: How Doctors Keep Germs at Bay
Doctors give their top tips for avoiding nasty cold and flu germs.
Keep cold and flu germs off surfaces
Colds and flu are caused by viruses, which can easily pass from person to person, or from surface to person.
“Computer keyboards, telephones, doorknobs, pens that are given to you when you sign for a credit card purchase or in a doctor’s office -- all of these are surfaces that have great potential for harboring germs,” says Neil Schachter, MD, professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds and Flu.
“I make it a point of carrying around little bottles of alcohol-based cleansers, and I use them liberally after I suspect that I’ve been exposed,” he says.
“I have antiseptic wipes, and I regularly clean my desktop and my phone,” Tolcher says. “I clean my stethoscope and even my pens with alcohol every day.”
Exercise for immunity
A jog around the block a few times a week not only can do wonders for your physique -- it also might prevent you from getting sick. “I try to get 20 to 30 minutes of cardio every morning before I go to work,” Fryhofer says. “There’s something about making your heart pump that’s good for your body. It strengthens your heart and strengthens your immune system.”
The research seems to agree -- one study found that postmenopausal women who exercised for a year had one-third the colds of women who didn’t work out.
What about exercise if you’re already sick? The general rule is if your symptoms are above the neck (stuffy nose, sneezing), go ahead. But if you have a fever higher than 100 degrees, a cough, or chills, hold off on the workout front for a few days until you feel better.
Colds, flus, and herbal medicine
There’s been a lot of buzz about herbal remedies for preventing and shortening the duration of colds. Although the research on whether they work shows mixed results, some of the doctors we spoke with said they do find relief from natural remedies.
“I use echinacea and goldenseal because they help boost the immune system and fight off microbes,” says Lauren Richter, DO, assistant professor of family and community medicine at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine. “I like the teas, but a lot of people don’t like the taste, so pills are fine.”