10 Habits Doctors Use to Avoid Cold and Flu
During the winter, doctors see patient after patient with cold and flu symptoms—and gobs of germs. Steal their secrets to avoid getting sick this winter.
They get the flu shotiStock/annebaek
Getting a seasonal influenza vaccine is an excellent preventive measure for avoiding flu. Clement S. Rose, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago, gets the flu shot each year and recommends it for everyone who’s eligible. “Overall, it helps in the fight against the potentially deadly infection,” she says. (Related: These habits could mess up your flu shot.)
They wash up before mealsiStock/jonas unruh
Viruses such as the cold and flu are passed via physical contact—and you don’t have to shake hands with someone who’s sick; you could just touch a doorknob or a cell phone or a counterop that has their germs. A golden rule doctors always follow is to clean their hands before eating, with either soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers. You don’t need to scrub as thoroughly as a surgeon before an operation, but do avoid these hand-washing mistakes.
They take echinaceaiStock/AlexRaths
Echinacea is a natural herb that comes in many forms, including tea. Mark and Michele Sherwood, doctors at the Functional Medical Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma, drink a cup of echinacea tea each morning as a preventive habit during cold and flu season, and double or triple their consumption at the first hint of cold and flu symptoms. (Related: Steer clear of the foods and drink that could make your cold or flu worse.)
They don’t eat at their deskiStock/Eva Katalin Kondoros
You probably don’t even realize how many germs live in and around your workstation. When people eat at their desk, they tend to keep working through lunch, touching their keyboards, phones, and other contaminated surfaces in between bites. Use your lunch hour as a chance to take a true break from work—or at least sneak off long enough to eat your lunch away from your desk. (Related: Don’t miss the rules of cold and flu season etiquette from top manners experts.)
They move moreiStock/TommL
Kristine Arthur, MD, internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, helps keep sickness at bay by staying in good physical shape. “I try to squeeze in exercise like walking throughout the day,” she says. “If there is a bathroom a bit farther down the hall or up one level, try walking to that one. Park further out in the parking lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.” Studies show that exercise can help boost your body’s ability to fight off infection. Don’t miss the other habits that boost your immune system.
They go a little nuts with sanitizeriStock/nano
Working in an office means sharing air, space, and equipment with other, possibly sick, people. Dr. Arthur recommends taking the time to wipe down surfaces in common areas, including microwave buttons, fridge handles and doorknobs. Sick patients constantly touch reception areas, for example, so regular cleaning helps remove those germs.
They close their office dooriStock/kokouu
Like most people who work in an office, doctors can’t avoid interacting with others, but keeping the door to their office closed when possible helps prevent germs of any sick people passing by from wafting in. These must-know facts about the flu that can help keep you from getting sick.
They pop zinc tabletsiStock/Ivan Bajic
Dr. Rose takes zinc tablets to head off any incoming colds at the pass. “Zinc tablets are also helpful in treating viral infections, especially at the first sign of symptoms,” he says. “Some studies have shown zinc to be effective in reducing the number of days a cold lingers.” Taking zinc may also limit the number of colds a person contracts in a year.
They do nasal rinsesiStock/Barry Murphy
Using a saline solution to clean out your nasal passages can help get rid of a cold more quickly, according to Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse from New York and creator of RemediesForMe.com. “Nasal rinses can clear and unclog nasal passageways,” says Lee, who believes strongly in natural solutions to viral infections such as the cold and flu. “Irrigation removes debris and irritants, while moisturizing and soothing inflamed mucous linings.” Check out these other natural cold and flu remedies to feel better fast.
They stay homeiStock/Barry Murphy
No matter how important your job is—and doctors’ duties rank right up there—if you’re sick, stay home. You need time to rest and recover, and your co-workers would much prefer picking up any slack caused by your absence to contracting your illness. You’ll get better more quickly and be back to work healthy.