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
“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
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
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