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9 Tips for Staying Healthy

Reading time: 6 Minutes

February 27th, 2020

Nobody likes getting sick, but it seems like there’s always something going around. Fortunately, whether it’s flu season, COVID-19 or just the common cold, there are a few easy steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family.

Here are nine simple ways to minimize your exposure, reduce your risk of infection and build up your immunity.

1. Keep it Clean.

One of the main ways that disease-causing germs spread is through objects being handled by people. Bacteria and viruses can easily be deposited onto commonly used surfaces and then picked up by other people. Washing your hands with soap and water helps break this chain, eliminating germs before they can be passed along.

You’ll want to rinse your hands with clean, running water (either warm or cold), then apply soap and lather your hands for at least 20 seconds, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Rinse again with water and dry off with either a clean towel or by air drying.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how often to wash your hands, but it’s especially important at these key points:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food, and before eating.
  • After using the restroom, or helping someone else with it, such as a child
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal food or animal waste
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After touching garbage

If you don’t happen to have access to soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are better than not washing your hands at all, but check to make sure that the sanitizer contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

2. Keep everything else clean, too.

When it comes to stopping germs, job one is to wash your hands frequently. But you’ll also want to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Many of these will be obvious: countertops, tables and chairs, toilet seats, safety railings and door handles. Others might be easy to overlook: When’s the last time you really cleaned your cell phone, your computer keyboard or your TV remote?

Take a thorough inventory of the surfaces and items you use most often throughout the day, at work and at home, and make sure that you’re cleaning them regularly with soap and water or other cleaners.

3. Hands off your face.

Human skin provides a natural barrier to germs, but your eyes, nose, and mouth are all easy transmission points. Not only are they more vulnerable to picking up new bacteria and viruses from contaminated hands, but they can also easily transfer germs to your hands, leading you to pass along those germs even if you’ve recently washed your hands.

Keep your hands away from your face, even if you’ve just washed them. This is easier said than done, of course: People often touch their faces without even thinking about it, so this is a habit that’s worth being mindful about as you go about your day. A physical barrier can help: People think of face masks as being a barrier for coughing and sneezing, but they can also help keep your fingers away from inadvertently touching your mouth and nose.

4. Keep tissues handy.

Everyone knows you should cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. But it’s also important how you cover your mouth. If you just use your hand, you may have prevented germs from spraying out into the air, but all those germs are now on your palm, just waiting to be wiped off onto another surface.

If you’re feeling the need to cough or sneeze, make sure you’ve got tissues around, and then throw your used tissues in the trash. Even your sleeve will do in a pinch—the most important thing is to avoid contaminating your hands.

5. Keep a safe distance.

Many illnesses, particularly respiratory ones, are spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Microscopic airborne droplets can be almost impossible to avoid, especially when in close quarters with other people, so it’s best to keep some distance between yourself and anyone who appears to be suffering symptoms from illness. This applies to people you’re in direct contact with, including friends, coworkers and family, but it’s also a good idea to limit your exposure to crowded areas if at all possible.

6. Call in sick if you need to.

We all know coworkers who refuse to call in sick, dragging themselves to their desk even when they’re sniffling and coughing and barely able to keep their head up. It’s great to have a strong work ethic, but if you’re contagious, coming to work can actually put your whole team at risk, affecting more than just your personal productivity.

If you’re experiencing symptoms such as a fever or a frequent, persistent cough, don’t hesitate to call in sick if you can. It’ll be better for the health of your coworkers, and you’ll probably recuperate faster at home anyway. That work project can wait for a couple of days. Make sure, of course, to check your employer’s sick-leave policy first, so you know what its expectations and requirements are.

7. Boost your immune system.

Contagious diseases can affect anyone, but having a healthy immune system can’t hurt. It can defend against infection, and help limit the severity of your symptoms even if you do get sick.

Keeping your body strong and healthy can be one more weapon in the fight against illness, and you can maintain a strong immune system in many ways, including eating a nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and keeping your stress levels to a minimum. None of these habits are a silver bullet against getting sick, but taken together, they’ll really boost your ability to fight off infectious germs.

8. Get the flu shot.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people get their annual flu shot by the end of October, but if you and your family haven’t gotten around to it this year, it’s never too late. The flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor by as much as 40 to 60 percent, and even if you do end up getting sick, the vaccine can reduce the severity of your symptoms. Even if you’re not worried about coming down with the flu yourself, getting vaccinated will help protect those around you, especially babies, young children, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions. It’s a win-win for everyone!

This vaccine locator by the Hawaii Department of Health can help you find a pharmacy or clinic offering flu shots in a neighborhood near you: https://health.hawaii.gov/docd/vaccines-immunizations/vaccine-locators/

9. Stay informed with the latest news updates.

In today’s social media era, rumors and disinformation can spread fast, especially when people are worried and on edge. It’s important to stay updated with the latest news from official and trustworthy sources including:

  • The Center for Disease Control’s website includes up-to-date information on important health issues, including frequently asked questions, information for travelers and more, at: https://www.cdc.gov
  • The Hawaii State Department of Health’s website includes information specific to Hawaii, tips on what you can do to keep yourself healthy and additional resources at: https://health.hawaii.gov

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