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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, seasonal influenza and other viruses – those pesky germs that are lurking in daycares, schools, and even your workspace.

It’s viral season, and it comes every year. Improve your immune response this season with the following tips covered in this article. My office and emergency room will be filled with kids and adults coughing, wiping their noses, and suffering from vomiting or diarrhea for the next few months. This is life in Canada in the Fall and Winter, much to our collective dismay. So here are my expert tips for preventing pains, aches, sniffles, sneezes, viral skin infections, and other annoying symptoms this season?

Influenza and other viral infections are highly contagious respiratory illnesses that can spread from person to person.

 

What are the common symptoms of viral infections?

Symptoms include fever, chills, runny nose, congestion, and cough. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid close contact with people who have symptoms or have been exposed to people who are sick. To prevent spreading viral infections yourself, stay home when you are sick so you don’t pass your infection on to others! 

 

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 infections 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 touching a patient, and 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.

A viral infection enters your body through your nose, mouth, and eyes. Bacteria and viruses take hold by entering your body through mucous membranes in these areas. Avoid rubbing your face, and keep your hands clean before you eat or touch your face. This will help keep a viral infection away and your immune system robust.

 

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. In addition, antiseptic wipes are great to keep on hand for your office space to wipe down your surfaces and equipment and prevent viral diseases.

 

4-Exercise

Getting your heart rate up every day (ideally for at least 30 minutes) can stave off illness. As a result, your heart will become more robust, and your immune system will fight infection better.

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. However, 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 last symptoms, and it can make the illness worse since your body may already be working extra hard to fight infection.

Dr Dina Kulik - Kids Health blog

 

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. But, unfortunately, 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. Reminder: 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 the common viral infection from 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. The flu shot will not defend against all infectious diseases, only the one from the influenza virus.

 

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!

These are some tips from the center for disease control when dealing with viral diseases:

Stay hydrated

Water, juice, and clear broth can help prevent dehydration and give a bit of energy when your appetite is down.

Use honey

Honey will soothe your throat if it’s sore from cold weather, seasonal influenza, or other infectious diseases. However, kids younger than one year of age should not consume honey.

Rest up!

Rest helps improve our immune system and can help us heal faster from an active viral infection. Consider sleeping more hours at night or taking naps during this period to give yourself some well-needed rest!

Dr Dina Kulik Parenting Books - Kidcrew Medical

Dr Dina Kulik Parenting Books - Kidcrew Medical

 

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

 

How do I improve my immune system to better fight viral infections?

Boosting your immune system can be challenging, but it’s essential. A healthy diet and regular exercise are two of the best ways to do so!

What else helps? Drinking lots of water and other fluids will keep you hydrated and improve your immune response.

How do I protect against a viral infection?

There are many ways to prevent infections. One way is by washing your hands regularly, avoiding close contact with sick people, and cleaning surfaces that you often touch like doorknobs or keyboards not to spread germs around the house!

What is the human immunodeficiency virus?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a life-threatening disease that attacks your immune system.

If you’re infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, it may lead to AIDS. AIDS has associated life-threatening conditions. HIV is one of many sexually transmitted diseases. HIV is most commonly spread through sexual contact, though it can be spread through blood exposure such as blood transfusions or intravenous drug use. Individuals with HIV take antiviral drugs and are encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle to prevent infectious diseases and bacterial infections associated with HIV.

Is the West Nile virus contagious?

West Nile virus is a severe illness that people can get from infected mosquitoes. The viruses are most commonly spread through bites but may also be transported by blood transfusions and organ donations if they’re not adequately screened for signs of disease.

What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common viral infection that causes viral illness symptoms such as cough, runny nose, and congestion. Respiratory Syncytial Virus usually does not require medicine.

However, in some cases, RSV can lead to serious health problems such as bronchiolitis–a disease where the small airways of your lungs become inflamed and swollen with fluid causing difficulty breathing. Antiviral drugs are not needed to treat RSV.

What is the varicella-zoster virus?

Chickenpox is one of several highly contagious infectious diseases caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It can cause an itchy, blister-like rash that spreads over your entire body. You may have many small blisters with chickenpox. Antiviral drugs are not needed to treat varicella.

Do antiviral drugs work?

Antiviral drugs can prevent the replication of viruses or block receptors so viruses can’t enter healthy cells. In addition, they can boost the immune system’s ability to fight off an infection by helping it destroy the virus and lower the viral load.

 

#YouGotThis

Dr Dina Kulik - Kids Health

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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