photo of 2 adults and 2 kids in bed with colds

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but keeping the common cold out of the house is a little tougher. As the weather gets cooler and kids (and adults) are inside more, it is easier to pass germs around. Before you know it, someone is sick.

Preventing a cold
You probably cannot completely prevent your family from ever catching a cold, but there are several things you can do to reduce the chances. And, once someone becomes sick, there are ways to keep it from spreading to everyone else.

Wash your hands. It seems so simple, but washing your hands often is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick. Washing with soap and water is all that is needed and experts recommend washing for 20 seconds - that’s long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday” song. Be sure to get plenty of lather and wash between fingers, both sides of the hands and on the wrists.

Wash your hands:
Whenever you shake hands
After touching your nose or mouth
After using the toilet
Before eating
After being in a public place such as a grocery store, shopping mall or school.
Before and after preparing food
Before and after caring for someone who is sick
After changing a diaper
After coughing, blowing your nose or sneezing

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can kill off most bacteria and some viruses, but they tend to kill off the “good” bacteria as well as the “bad.” But it can be effective when soap and water is unavailable. Just keep in mind that sanitizers will not remove dirt.

Eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest. Good nutrition, especially eating lots of fruits and vegetables, is important to keeping your immune system strong. Your body is better able to fight off colds when you are well rested, and regular exercise will also strengthen your immune system.

Keep it clean. Work spaces, telephones, door knobs, light switches, and elevator buttons are notorious for harboring germs. Sanitize them with a germ-killing spray or wipes and keep wipes handy at your desk to wipe off the surfaces you touch frequently.

Contain that sneeze. If there isn’t a tissue handy, sneezing into your elbow is much better than sneezing into your hands, which are a common place for germs. Germs are spread quickly in the droplets of fluid contained in a sneeze.

Keep Away. Unless you are a caregiver, try to keep your distance from those who are visibly sick. If you are the one who is sick, stay home from school or work and take care of symptoms to avoid infecting others with your germs.

Take zinc and vitamins. Zinc lozenges or sprays can help shorten the effects of a cold, as can Vitamin C. Vitamin D is also thought to help shorten the life of a cold.

Like many other things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to colds. By taking a few extra steps this winter, you can reduce the chance of your family catching the common cold.