Six Ways to Prevent Sickness or Catching a Virus

Preventing Illness

There is an outbreak of the coronavirus with over 900 cases reported and 2 have been reported in the United States. While these situations are hard to prepare for, taking the necessary precautions can keep you safe from contracting an illness.

Be wary of sharing food with others.

Double-dippers may be passing germs to those who eat after them, Dr. Mengel says, so maybe opt to steer clear of communal snacks—especially at your company’s holiday party, when cold and flu season is in full swing. Also worth ditching: Sharing drinks with anyone else—it’s just not worth it.

Wash your hands as much as you possibly can.

A good rule of thumb (no pun intended?) Each time you shake someone’s hand, wash yours. But don’t stop there—you want to lather up your hands as much as possible, says Mark Mengel, MD, chair of community and family medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Running lots of water over your hands will dilute any germs and send them down the drain, and soap will help slough off the germs quicker.

Get your flu shot every single year.

Yes, really. (No, it will not make you sick). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone six months of age or older get a flu shot every year—ideally by the end of October, around the time flu season starts showing up. Here’s where to get your flu vaccine for free.

Eat enough fruits and vegetables.

Is it always fun to eat healthy the majority of the time? Not really, but eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can help support your immune system, says Jeff Robertson, MD, chief medical officer for health insurance company Regence. That means it can give your body an even better chance of fighting off the flu.

Keep your distance from sick people.

This one might seem obvious, but it applies to more than just keeping a safe distance from sick strangers and colleagues—it pertains to keeping a wide berth to sick family and friends too, when possible, says Dr. Robertson. And if you do have to interact with people who are sick, make sure to be vigilant about washing your hands and not touching your face.

Keep hand sanitizer on hand.

You know how washing your hands is good protection against cold and flu germs? Sometimes you just are’t near a sink with running water and soap—in those situations, keep sanitizing gel or alcohol-based hand wipes on you at all times. But, pro-tip: Read the label before you buy, says Dr. Robertson. Look for alcohol-based wipes and gels, which are more effective at killing germs than those without alcohol.

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