The flu season is mercilessly approaching, and you are likely already making preparations for its arrival. You travel on foot whenever you can to avoid the cramped public transportation, steer clear from your perpetually-sneezing colleagues, and have made an appointment with your GP for your annual flu shot. Yes, it seems like you’re already one step ahead of the pesky virus.
Unfortunately, the reality is that you may not be as protected as you may think. There are other sneaky ways in which the flu can get to you, and most of them are associated with habits, places, or objects that often come into play in our lighting-fast urban lifestyles. If you’re hoping to escape the flu’s wrath, take a seat and learn what you may be doing wrong this winter season.
1. Your Exercise Routine Is a Bit Too Intense
While being in top physical shape does help ward off flu and the common cold, over-stimulating your muscles will not do you any favours. Pushing your already exhausted body into overdrive for “that extra pull-up rep” will weaken your immune system since your body will need more time to fully recover, during which it will be vulnerable to a bacterial attack. Habitual lack of sleep, poor hydration, and bad eating habits will also increase your chances of catching the flu bug.
2. You Take Your Flu Medications Beforehand
Whether it’s due to bad doctor advise or old wives’ tales, the fact is that there are still many people who stock up on meds they’ll never actually need. If preemptively taking pills has somehow become your second nature, you should quit this bad habit immediately since all you’re doing is helping the virus develop an immunity to the meds that are supposed to kill it.
3. You Use Nothing But Antibacterial Hand Gels
You may find this a bit surprising, but the good old bar of soap is still your best bet at keeping the flu at a safe distance. As much as antibacterial gels are, well, handy when it comes to regular germs, there isn’t a single bit of research to suggest that they are also good at eliminating viruses, according to CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, MD. If you keep using a hand gel despite our warnings, at least make sure that it contains 60% to 95% alcohol, ethanol, or isopropanol.
4. You Don’t Give Your Hands a Proper Wash
Many doctors recommend that you wash your hands at least 10 times a day for 20 seconds or longer. This is especially the case if you’ve just coughed or sneezed into your hand. If you are feeling a bit under the weather after a long day at work, it may be because you don’t give your hands the proper wash they deserve. Ensure the bacteria are fully washed away by thoroughly scrubbing your hands together and paying special attention to the areas between your fingers.
5. You Incorrectly Remove Your Face Mask
Although the efficacy of face masks during a flu epidemic has been a somewhat controversial topic, recent research suggests that they do protect their wearers from the virus to some extent. Their usefulness, however, can be quickly nullified if you don’t know how to properly remove them, explains John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza. According to him, you should remove the mask by the straps or strings on its back in order to prevent it (and the germs) from contaminating your nose or mouth. Once discarded, wash your hands with soap and water.
6. You Have the Bad Habit of Rubbing Your Eyes
Everyone has experienced this at one point or another. You sit at your office, minding your own business, when suddenly – your left eye starts uncontrollably itching! But think your decision through before proceeding to vigorously rub your eye with your hands (especially if you haven’t washed them first), because that fleeting moment of relief can come at a really high price.
Your hands are usually swarming with bacteria on a daily basis, which are kept at bay by a dense protective barrier. Your eyes, however, lack such barriers, which makes them vulnerable to conjunctivitis and other bacterial infections. The eye cover (conjunctiva) also has good blood circulation, so flu and other viruses can easily sneak into your body by entering the bloodstream.
7. You Constantly Forget to Wash Your Hands After…
- Touching office peripherals. Keyboards are one of the dirtiest places in the office that often remain uncleaned for weeks on end. The same goes for the computer mouse.
- Visiting a shopping mall. From the many germ-ridden surfaces in these establishments, perhaps the most notable are the shopping carts. Several shopping cart swab tests have revealed the presence of an alarming number of dangerous substances and bacteria, such as saliva, mucus, fecal matter, Salmonella, Staph, and more.
- Hitting the gym. We already stated the dangers of over-exercising, but the surfaces themselves are just as likely to give you the flu. Make sure to wipe down exercise equipment with a clean towel and a disinfectant before using it and always take a hot shower with soap and water as soon as you have completed your workout.
- Using your smartphone. If you cannot remember when it was the last time you’ve disinfected your phone’s touch display, then it’s probably teeming with germs. Make sure to wipe your phone at least twice a day to avoid contracting or spreading the virus.
- Pressing elevator buttons. The same sneezing colleagues that you are so diligently trying to avoid are probably using your office elevator as we speak. Even if that’s not the case, be on the safe side and always wash your hands after touching any of the buttons.
- Withdrawing money at the ATM. Studies have shown that cold-causing germs can live on inanimate surfaces for up to 2 days. Thus, the higher the number of people that use your local ATM machine, the higher your chances of contracting the virus become.
- Visiting your GP. Waiting for your doctor’s appointment is one of the surest ways to catch a flu. Just think about it – the people who will keep you company in the waiting room will probably cough and sneeze and touch everything around them. Not good.