Wintertime is a great time to frolic in the snow, enjoy family on holiday vacations, and get sick. Between the cold, shivery temperatures that stress your immune system to drier air that prevents your nasal passages from producing protective mucus, winter brings extra opportunities for infectious diseases to make their way into your system.
Your health experts at Infectious Disease Physician & Travel Clinic in Lansdowne, Virginia, help you stay healthy all winter long and throughout the rest of the year, too. Medical Director Dr. Sarfraz A. Choudhary offers these five tips to keep you and your family safe from infection:
1. Get a vaccine.
You may already know that vaccines are required when traveling to some exotic locations, but a flu shot can be just as important a part of your prevention routine, even when the travel is local. Viruses are easily transmitted from a cough or sneeze in tight quarters, such as an airplane or bus.
Even if you never leave home, you’re still at risk for a nasty flu bug from regular day-to-day contact with other people. Children, the elderly, and men and women with health conditions are especially susceptible to complications from the flu. You and your family can get your flu shots and any other other needed vaccines at Disease Physician & Travel Clinic.
2. Wash your hands. A lot.
Do you know how to wash your hands? Chances are, you don’t. Effective handwashing entails a lot more than a squirt of soap and a splash of water.
Here are the steps the CDC recommends:
- Wet your hands, turn off the tap, and soap up.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (hum the “Happy Birthday” song all the way through at normal speed, twice, to approximate the time).
- Rinse hands well.
- Dry with a clean towel or hot-air dryer.
As to when you should wash, the CDC chimes in again:
- Before and after eating
- Before and after preparing food
- After caring for a wound or for someone who’s ill
- After using the toilet, changing a baby’s diaper, or handling pet waste
- After touching an animal (including pets) or touching their food or treats
- After handling garbage or anything else icky
- After sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose.
Use hand sanitizers when soap and water aren’t available.
3. Practice safer sex.
Condoms help protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV/AIDS. However, many STDs are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, including Herpes I and II and human papilloma virus (HPV). Take a shower both before and after intercourse, and urinate after sex to help flush bacteria from your urethra.
Talk to your doctor about vaccinations for Hepatitis B and HPV. If you’re at risk for STDs, be sure to be tested regularly.
4. Cook and clean well.
Make sure you cook meats thoroughly to kill bacteria. Scrub kitchen counters and other food-prep surfaces after handling raw meat, poultry, or fish. Keep your kitchen counters, stove, table, and floors clean.
5. Don’t share.
Even though you made your kindergarten teacher proud when you shared your crayons with your classmates, sharing personal objects is a great way to transmit viruses, bacteria, and other microbes. Encourage your kids to keep their personal items to themselves, including pencil cases, combs, and makeup.
Make sure that everyone in your household has his or her own towel and toothbrush. And if you hit the beach, gym, or pool be sure you protect yourself with flip flops or shower shoes so you don’t accidentally “share” someone else’s athlete’s foot or other infection.
Get up to date on your vaccines and exams by scheduling an appointment at Infectious Diseases Tropical Medicine & Travel Clinic. Call us today, or use the online booking form.