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September 2011 | 2 Comments | Print
Family medicine

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American Board of Family Practice


University of Michigan School of Medicine


The Christ Hospital

Stock your cold and flu prevention toolkit

It’s the start of cold and flu season and you’d love nothing more than to disinfect every doorknob, banish every germ-tainted tissue box and keep a 6-foot distance from everyone you meet. These are great ideas in theory, but if you really want to prevent getting sick, stock your toolkit with the following:

The Flu Shot

“The flu shot is hands down the best prevention tool for the flu,” says Jennifer White, M.D., a family medicine physician with The Christ Hospital Medical Associates. The vaccine works by stimulating the immune system to think it’s already had the flu virus. This year, it protects against seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. Ask your doctor if the injection or nasal spray is best for you.

Doctor Tip: Everyone 6 months and older should receive the flu vaccine each year. “There isn’t one group that should shy away from the flu vaccine,” Dr. White says. Don’t forget, the vaccine can only protect you for one year, so schedule it annually. For best results, get vaccinated in September so you’re ready for the flu season, which typically runs October through April.

Soap & Water

Just some simple soap and water can rid your digits of cold, flu and other germs. For best results, wash between your fingers, beneath fingernails and your wrists. Wash your hands:

  • Before eating
  • After using the restroom
  • After physical contact with a sick person or items they used
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose

Doctor’s Tip: To truly get rid of germs, scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, or about the time it takes you to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.

Nutrition vs. Supplements

If your body lacks certain nutrients like vitamin C or zinc, or if you have a bacterial imbalance, your immune system might be suppressed. However, it might not be as simple as stocking up on vitamins. The truth is, adding supplements to your diet hasn’t been proven to prevent or shorten the duration of the cold or flu.

Doctor’s Tip: Most healthy adults can get all the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy through good nutrition. Stick with vegetables, fruits, whole and fortified grains, lean meats and dairy.

A Pillow

The more sleep you get, the fewer sick days you’ll have. Deep sleep restores the body at the cellular level and increases specialized white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes. Like little soldiers, these immunity cells defend your body against invading germs, bacteria and viruses.

Doctor’s Tip: Get at least eight hours of sleep each night by following these sleep guidelines.

Instant Hand Sanitizer

When soap and water aren’t available, instant hand sanitizer works by breaking down the germs’ cells with active ingredients (usually alcohols, such as ethyl alcohol, ethanol, or isopropanol). Effective hand sanitizers should contain at least a 60 percent alcohol concentration.

Doctor’s Tip: Use hand sanitizers with caution if you have extra dry skin – especially in Cincinnati’s frigid winters. “Alcohol-based sanitizers can dry skin. Very dry skin can easily crack, and that’s a great place for bacteria and viruses to hide,” Dr. White explains.

Walking or Running Shoes

Moderate aerobic exercise, 30 minutes per day, five days per week strengthens the immune system, keeps oxygen-rich blood flowing and removes toxins. However, high intensity or prolonged endurance can boost the output of stress-related hormones, which can lower immunity. Rest at weekly intervals and listen to your body.

Doctor’s Tip: If you don’t like resorting to the gym in fall and winter, you can still get in an outdoor workout at the U.S. Bank Ice Rink in Fountain Square, nearby ski slopes and along the Riverfront.

Learn where you can get your flu vaccination by calling 877-904-4YOU or visiting

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Super informative writing; keep it up.

Thanks for the article - great recommendations. I am willing to do pretty much anything to avoid the flu, and these seem pretty simple to implement into my routine.

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