7 Tips For Preventing Viral Infections This Fall and Winter

Infectious Diseases

7 Tips For Preventing Viral Infections This Fall and Winter

It’s on every parent’s mind right now – those pesky germs that are lurking in daycares, school and even your workspace. It is viral season, and there is no going back. For the next three or more months my office and emergency room will be filled with kids and adults coughing, wiping their noses and suffering with vomiting and diarhea. This is life in Canada in the Fall and Winter, much to our collective chagrin. Here are my expert tips for preventing pains, aches, sniffles, sneezes and worse this year.

How to best prevent illness 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 filthy. I personally wash my hands before I step in every exam room, again before I touch 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.


  1. Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes

This is how bacteria and viruses take hold – by entering your body through mucous membranes. Avoid rubbing your face. Keep your hands clean before you eat.

  1. Keep surfaces germ free

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

  1. Exercise

Getting your heart rate up every day (ideally for at least 30 min) can stave off illness. Your heart will become stronger, and your immune system better able to fight infection. If you are already sick follow this simple rule of thumb – if you are sick above the neck with sneezing and congestion, go ahead and exercise. If you have a high fever, cough or chills, get some rest and resume exercise when you are feeling better.

  1. 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 treatment that is worth considering is honey, where limited evidence shows it can prevent infections and shorten the duration of illness. These other ones – there is likely no harm, but please check with your doctor first, especially if you are taking other medication where drug interactions are possible.

  1. Consider Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen for fever and aches

These pain and fever relievers can make your child feel a lot better. Ibuprofen is given every 6-8 hours, and acetaminophen every 4 hours.

  1. Consider getting the flu shot/nasal mist

The flu vaccine is a great defence against viral infections such as the influenza virus. You cannot get the flu from the shot or spray, but mild fever, aches or runny nose are common side effects. For more on the flu vaccine, check this out.

Bottom line

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

The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes and is not medical advice.

Do NOT use this Website for medical emergencies.

If you have a medical emergency, call a physician or qualified healthcare provider, or CALL 911 immediately. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-treatment based on anything you have seen or read on this Website. Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed and qualified health provider in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

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