There are several measures you can take to prevent getting a cold or the flu. Because the viruses that cause them are predominantly spread by hands, it is not surprising that the two most important prevention strategies involve the hands.
The most important thing you can do is to wash your hands regularly and properly. Proper hand washing removes the germs from your hands so that you don’t spread them.
A second prevention strategy is to avoid touching your hands to your face. You can have millions of cold or flu viruses on your hands, but as long as they don’t get near your respiratory tract you won’t get a cold or the flu. We regularly touch our face: We scratch our nose, pick stuff out of our teeth, burst a pimple, rest our head in our hands, and more. Most people are not conscious of touching their face, so it can be difficult to stop doing it. However, it is well worth getting into the habit. Think of your hands as always being contaminated (except of course, when you have just washed them).
If you need to touch your face—to get an eyelash out of your eye for example—then wash your hands first. You should also wash your hands before eating. If you want to scratch your face, use the sleeve of your shirt. Don’t scratch your face with an object like a pen as it may be contaminated with viruses. In fact, you should generally avoid putting objects to your face. Although indirect contact is the main way colds and the flu are spread, they can also be spread directly through droplets. If you are near someone who is not covering their sneeze or cough, then cover your mouth and nose and move away. The droplets fall to the ground but they can still be in the air for 1-2 meters around the person.
Besides these measures, there exists a vaccine to prevent the flu. Each year a new vaccine is produced that protects against the most serious strains of the flu. The flu shot is available at Concordia Health Services. There is no vaccine to prevent a cold.