The holidays are an exciting time of year, but they’re also the height of cold and flu season. Many seasonal illnesses are passed from person to person through food or contact, which is why it is very important to try to protect yourself by practicing good hygiene. The best way to prevent the flu is to get your annual flu shot. Not only do you protect yourself from the flu, but you also protect those who aren’t able to get a flu vaccine by preventing the spread of it.
Regular hand washing is an important step in preventing the spread of germs. When washing your hands, use lukewarm water and wash for at least 20 seconds, making sure to scrub all surfaces of your hands. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after coughing or sneezing, visiting the restroom, shopping or attending holiday parties. Hand sanitizer is also a great on-the-go method of keeping germs at bay when you’ll be interacting with a lot of people.
Any time you need to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth completely within your elbow to help keep your hands germ-free. For kids, we describe this as the “vampire cough” method, where you place your nose into your elbow like a vampire.
Be in tune with your body, particularly this time of year. If you are sick—if you have a high fever or other flu-like symptoms—please stay at home. The flu is contagious and you are very likely to pass it on to another person if you are around them for a long period of time. If you are experiencing symptoms of the flu, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or go to urgent care as soon as possible. Cone Health has an exceptional network of family medicine providers and urgent care facilities throughout the area.
Angela Bacigalupo, MD, MPH, is a family medicine physician with Burlington Family Practice and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. Bacigalupo completed medical school at University of North Carolina School of Medicine and received her Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. She completed her residency in family medicine at Cone Health Family Medicine Residency.