How you can prevent colds and the flu in Colorado
Getting close to the ones you love is one of life’s great joys. But during cold and flu season, it can also mean spreading germs. All it takes is a cough or sneeze and before you know it, the whole house is sick.
“Young children are always very efficient at sharing their germs, but we’re all good at that during flu season,” says Dr. Kevin Gordon, family medicine physician in Aurora.
But you can take steps to help keep yourself and your family from getting sick.
Start by building good habits
By taking a few simple steps every day, you’ll have a much better chance of staying healthy during flu season and beyond:
- Get plenty of sleep each night (7-9 hours is recommended for adults)
- Take time to rest when you feel rundown
- Stay home from work when you’re sick
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow, or use tissues
The incredible power of handwashing
It’s no secret that germs are often spread by touch. That’s why regular handwashing can work wonders for people trying to avoid illness. It’s a good idea to wash your hands multiple times during the day, and especially:
- Before and after preparing food
- Before eating
- After using the bathroom
- After shaking hands with someone who shows cold and flu symptoms
- After touching certain surfaces, like trashcan lids, shared countertops, or shared keyboards
- When you get home from work or errands
Remember to use plenty of soap and warm water, and to scrub your hands for at least 30 seconds (it makes a big difference). Need help timing yourself? Try humming the “Happy Birthday” song twice before rinsing off.
If you can’t get to soap and water over the course of your day, use antibacterial hand gel instead.
Don’t forget your flu shot
“The flu shot is your single best bet at preventing the flu,” says Dr. Gordon.
The influenza virus comes in different strains, and each year’s flu shot is designed to protect you from the strains that are most expected. That’s why it’s important to get your shot each year.
Many people can’t get the flu shot because of their age or if they have compromised immune systems, like the elderly, infants under 6 months, and people undergoing cancer treatment. So when you immunize yourself, you’re helping to protect them, too.
Kids need flu shots, too
Pediatrician Jennifer Betz in Brighton encourages all parents to get their children immunized.
“We recommend all healthy children ages 6 months and up get protected against the flu with annual flu shots,” says Dr. Betz. “This helps keep kids healthy and in school. Getting kids immunized against influenza also helps keep parents healthy as influenza likes to spread through families.”
If you do get sick
If you start to feel like you’re getting a cold or the flu, you have options to get the care you need:1
- Call for advice and appointments: Call the Kaiser Permanente Nurse Advice line at 303-338-4545 or 1-800-218-1059 (TTY 711) anytime, day or night.2 You’ll be able to get medical advice, make an appointment, or find your nearest urgent care location.
- Chat Online: Sign on to kp.org to chat with a Kaiser Permanente physician.
- Email your doctor’s office: Use the secure messaging system on kp.org to ask questions about your nonurgent symptoms. Patients typically hear back within 2 business days, often faster.
- Schedule a phone appointment: If you’re short on time, or don’t feel well enough for the trip, you can save yourself an office visit by scheduling a call with your doctor.
Take the first step toward prevention
If you practice the healthy habits outlined above, you’ll improve your chances of not getting sick to begin with. Getting your flu shot is a great first step.
If you’re a member, you can get a no-cost flu shot at your Kaiser Permanente medical office. Visit kp.org/flu for flu shot clinic locations, dates, and times.
In the Spotlight – Find out what’s happening in your area:
1These features are available when you receive care at Kaiser Permanente medical offices.
2If you use a network provider, call that office directly to make an appointment.