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7 clever ways to outsmart cold and flu germs

Dodge the common bugs that can spread misery among us

Cold and flu season — it’s a time none of us look forward to. Getting sick is not festive. Not fun. But it’s not inevitable either.

Steel yourself for the months ahead with these tips and tricks. They’ll help reduce your risk of getting sick — and spreading germs to others too.

1. Scrub-a-dub-dub

Handwashing is your friend. Step up to the sink regularly to wash germs down the drain. You don’t have to scrub like a surgeon — but doing it well does make a difference. Here are quick pointers for how and when to wash up.Opens a new window

2. Stash sanitizer

Soap and water aren’t always available. Keep hand sanitizer in handy places like purses, backpacks, lunchboxes, etc. Choose a product that’s at least 60 percent alcohol.

3. Be hands off

You may touch your face without thinking much about it. Most of us do. But the eyes, nose and mouth are prime routes for germs to enter our body and infect us. So pay attention. And if you need to touch your face — to remove contact lenses or floss your teeth, for example — wash your hands first.

4. Get your tidy on

Use a disinfectant to wash hard surfaces that get touched a lot, like doorknobs, phones, remote controls and countertops. Wash bedding — and use a hot dryer setting.

5. Keep your distance

When possible, avoid close contact with people who are ill — or with healthy people, if you’re the one who’s sick. What’s a healthy buffer? Try six feet or more. That’s how far experts think germs can travel after being sneezed or coughed into the air.

6. Set up a sick room

If a miserable bug strikes someone in the family, try keeping the germs isolated to one comfy room. It may not work in every household — but this could keep others in the family from getting sick. If you have more than one bathroom, setting aside one for the sick person may help as well. And don’t share items like drinking glasses, washcloths and hand towels.

7. Don’t sneeze at this tip

Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your upper sleeve — not your hands. And throw used tissues in a trash can. Remember to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.

What to do next

Remember this: A flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself from the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most everyone 6 months and older should get an influenza vaccine every year. Some children may need two doses.

Learn more about how to get a flu shot

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