The days are shorter and colder, which means we spend more time snuggled up at home. It’s a great time of year for cozying up with friends and family, but the additional time indoors is a primary reason the colder months coincide with cold and flu season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the sneezing and sniffling can start as early as October and continues roughly through February.
Why Might It Be Harder to Avoid Colds and Flu this Winter?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our habits and how we think about managing communicable diseases. Due to masking and social distancing, the number of cases of the flu hit an all-time low last year. Given that we continue to take some precautions, you’d think we might have a similar season and that we needn’t plan ahead for avoiding colds and flu this year.
But last year’s low figures mean that the World Health Organization had less data with which to formulate this year’s flu vaccine. Even if you don’t get a flu shot every year, flu vaccines help minimize the spread of the flu. It’s possible this year’s flu vaccine will be less effective than it is during a normal, “average” year, which could mean a bad season. The bottom line is that it’s unclear what to expect for colds and flu this winter. If you want to keep your family as safe as possible, follow our tips.
Seven Ways to Avoid Colds and Flu This Winter
Here are our best tips for keeping your loved ones healthy this cold and flu season.
Do the Laundry
(We hear the collective moan of moms everywhere.) Bedding can collect our germs, so do the wash frequently. If someone in your family does happen to catch a bug, step up the washings of clothes, towels, and bedding to prevent the bug from being passed to someone else in the family. For good measure, you may also want to clean your washing machine before colds and flu start peaking.
Keep Your Distance When Someone Is Ill
If a sick person in your house sneezes, coughs, or even talks, their germs can spread to others in your family if they are six feet away or less. Plus, their germs contaminate surfaces in your home that others will touch, increasing their chances of picking up the same bug. Do your best with the space you have in your home to reduce a sick family member’s contact with others. Have them sleep in a room by themselves and designate a bathroom just for them. Where this isn’t possible, keep disinfecting wipes handy and wipe down surfaces often.
Be Smart in “Germy” Areas
Speaking of bathrooms, surfaces like handles and knobs everyone touches aren’t the only places where germs can spread in there. Be sure to keep toothbrushes separated and consider disposable cups and paper towels to avoid sharing germs. An alternative to paper towels is to assign each family member their own hand towel. These rules are good ideas when everyone is healthy, but they’re essential is a family member gets sick. Also, consider what “rules” you need in the kitchen for keeping everyone healthy. For example, maybe you keep disinfecting wipes handy and ask everyone to wipe down the counter before and after preparing food. (The ‘no sharing utensils and glasses should go without saying!)
Wash Your Hands!
Remember back in the day when your grandparents sent you to wash your hands before dinner? Not surprisingly, this was a smart move, as cold and flu germs are easily passed from our hands into our bodies through the mouth, nose, or eyes. (If you haven’t noticed how often we touch our eyes, noses, and mouths: It’s a lot.) Regular soap and water rid your hands of germs, so wash them frequently, especially before eating and after cleaning, using the rest room, or being out in public where you may have touched germy surfaces. For more on the proper times and way to wash your hands, visit the CDC’s website.
Mask Up to Avoid Cold and Flu Germs
There’s a preponderance of scientific evidence that face coverings mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as well as colds and flu. Seasonal illnesses spread from person to person through moisture droplets leaving our bodies through breathing, coughing, and sneezing. Masks prevent those droplets from entering the air we breathe by keeping them to ourselves. The CDC estimates that masking can limit 50-70% of transmission of COVID-19, which is more highly contagious than colds and flu. So imagine how much protection masking provides for colds and flus.
Stock Up on Preventative Supplies and Remedies
Save yourself trips to the store by stocking up on supplies you need for cold and flu season. Paper towels and household cleaners, disinfecting wipes are the obvious items. But also prepare by grabbing foods, drinks, and medicines that help sick family members feel better. Electrolyte drinks, herbal teas, and popsicles are our favorites for comfort and hydration. And don’t forget the tissues and chicken noodle soup!
Manage Your Indoor Air Quality
An air purification system is a great way to keep the germs away! For example, the HVAC air purifiers such as the PureAir™ S Air Purification System 99.9% of airborne particles (e.g., dust, pet dander and pollen), plus they also remove over 99% of the virus that causes COVID-19 from the air! What’s more, these systems also rid your home of unpleasant odors. You can watch this quick video to learn more.
If adding an air purifier isn’t in the cards for you this winter, we’ve offered some additional tips for using your HVAC system to stay healthy. And don’t forget to change your air filters frequently for better air quality.
We Can Help
A healthy home starts with you, but we can help. We’d be honored to help you minimize the chances of getting sick this winter – and all the family strain that goes with it. Give us a call to explore how you can better leverage your HVAC system to stay healthy this winter. We can help you find the best solutions, as well as explore ways to save with rebates and special financing.