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7 Tips For Preventing Viral Infections This Fall and Winter

Infectious Diseases

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Let’s talk about How to Prevent Viral Infections

It’s on every parent’s mind right now – those pesky germs that are lurking in daycares, schools, and even your workspace.

It’s virus season, and it comes every year. For the next few months, my office and emergency room will be filled with kids and adults coughing, wiping their noses, and suffering from vomiting or diarrhea. This is life in Canada in the Fall and Winter, much to our collective dismay. Here are my expert tips for preventing pains, aches, sniffles, sneezes, and more this year:

 

How to best prevent viral infections this season

1. Wash your hands to keep germs away

I know you’ve heard it a million times, but washing your hands often with soap and water, or using a sanitizing gel or spray, really does decrease the risk of getting viral and bacterial infections. Ensure you wash for 20 seconds or more (as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice). Consider using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the bathroom door in public washrooms, too, as these are often germ-ridden places. I wash my hands before I step in every exam room, again before I touch a patient, and also as I’m leaving a room. Yes, my hands are drier than I’d like, so I moisturize with coconut oil three times a day as well. Colder seasons can cause skin dryness, so when you’re washing your hands frequently, it’s essential to moisturize as well. Keeping a small tube of non-irritating moisturizer on you, like Aquaphor or Eucerin, can help.

 

2. Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes

This is how bacteria and viruses take hold – by entering your body through mucous membranes like the nose, mouth, and eyes. Avoid rubbing your face, and keep your hands clean before you eat.

 

3. Keep surfaces germ-free

Viruses and bacteria can live on surfaces for hours or even days. A public keyboard, phone, doorknob, pen, and water cooler are likely covered in illness-causing germs. Consider cleaning these surfaces often (and encourage others to as well), and keep hand sanitizers at the ready after using public facilities. Antiseptic wipes are great to keep on hand for your office space to wipe down your surfaces and equipment.

 

4. Exercise

Getting your heart rate up every day (ideally for at least 30 minutes) can stave off illness. Your heart will become more robust, and your immune system will be better able to fight infection. If you are already sick, follow this simple rule of thumb on whether or not to exercise: If you have symptoms above the neck, like sneezing and congestion, go ahead and exercise. If you have a high fever, cough, or chills, get some rest instead and resume exercise when you feel better. Some people make the mistake of exercising when they have the latter symptoms, and it can make the illness worse since your body may already be working extra hard to fight infection.

 

5. Cold remedies

Over the years, we have heard about many medicines and herbal remedies that are touted as preventive magic for colds and flu; high-dose vitamin C, Echinacea, and zinc, to name a few. Most studies demonstrate mixed results in the prevention and treatment of common viruses. One natural remedy that is worth considering, however, is honey. Some evidence suggests it can prevent infections and shorten the duration of illness. You can try putting some honey in hot water or your tea. For the other natural preventatives mentioned, there is likely no harm in using them. Still, please check with your doctor first — especially if you take other medications that can cause drug interactions. Kids less than one year of age should NOT ingest honey.

 

6. Consider Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen for fever and aches

These pain and fever relievers can significantly reduce your uncomfortable symptoms. Ibuprofen can be taken every 6-8 hours, and acetaminophen can be taken every 4 hours. Ask your doctor about the best dose of Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen for your child.

 

7. Consider getting the flu shot or nasal mist

The flu vaccine is an excellent defense against viral infections like the influenza virus. You cannot get the actual flu from the shot or spray, but mild fever, aches, or runny nose are common side effects. For more information on the flu vaccine, check this out.

 

Here’s the bottom line on viral infections

Prevention and preparation are key. These simple tricks will help keep you and your family prepared and healthy all season!

#YouGotThis

Dr. Dina Kulik

Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM
Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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