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With school starting, it seems like children are more likely to get sick with colds and the flu. They bring it home to the rest of the family. Surveys show that Americans suffer a billion colds each year. The flu adds even more illness. While not foolproof, there are ways to lower you and your family’s chances of getting a cold or the flu.

Be Aware of How Viruses Are Spread. Cold and flu viruses are thought to be spread from person to person through droplets made when people cough, sneeze, or talk. They also may spread when people touch something with cold or flu viruses on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose.

Exercise: It’s a Proven Immune Booster. Moderate exercise five days a week can reduce risk of a cold by a third. The best results are long-term. In one study, women who walked for 12 months had the most resistance to colds in the final quarter of the year.

Eat and Sleep for Health. Healthy eating and getting plenty of rest, along with exercise and stress reduction, keep your immune system healthy and better able to hold off infection. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

Wash Your Hands Often. Use warm water and soap. Plain soap is fine, because it’s the act of rubbing the hands together for at least 20 seconds that gets rid of germs. Don’t forget to clean under the nails, between the fingers, and wash your wrists as well.

Watch Your Fingers. Without thinking, we rub our eyes, cover our mouths, or rub our noses with our hands. That is a sure way to infect your self with a cold or the flu. Keep your fingers away from your nose, mouth, and eyes to avoid infecting yourself.

Teach Your Kids. Children share a cold or the flu easily. Teach your child to cough into their elbow or shoulder and sneeze into a tissue. Instill a life-long habit that is the key to illness prevention: hand-washing.

Get the Flu Vaccine. Vaccines are the surest way to prevent the flu. The best time to get a flu vaccine is from October through November, although you can get the vaccine even later during flu season. Get the flu vaccine every year. Flu viruses are constantly changing, and new vaccines are developed each year to protect against new strains.

Clean for Virus Prevention. Use disinfectant when you clean at home, especially in the bathroomv and kitchen. Stay away from sponges and rags — studies show they’re the number one source of germs in the whole house. If you must use sponges, change them once a week or soak them in bleach for 15 minutes.

Practice Cold and Flu Prevention at Work. Hold office meetings in large rooms with plenty of ventilation. Keep some extra space between you and people who are sick, or who sneeze or cough openly. If you share a workstation with others, clean it with antibacterial wipes before you sit down.

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