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Steps to Steer Clear of Colds and Flu

Tips include lots of hand washing and plenty of rest

FRIDAY, Dec. 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- When it comes to gifts, it's better to give than to receive. But, in the case of colds and flu, you don't want to give or get them during the holidays.

"Avoiding spreading colds or influenza this season is going to be particularly important, in light of the recent flu vaccine shortage," Dr. Jeff Desmond, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

"Both the common cold and influenza are spread by respiratory droplets -- sneezing, coughing, or hand contact with another person after touching nose or mouth secretions. Both of them are viral illnesses and both are caused by several types of viruses," Desmond said.

Flu season tends to run from November into early March, with the peak period from late December into January. Colds can be passed around at any time of year, but they tend to spread faster and more widely in late fall and early winter, he noted.

No matter whether it's a cold or flu going around, you should do everything you can to avoid spreading or catching it.

"Stay home if you feel ill, cover your nose or mouth while you're coughing or sneezing, wash your hands frequently, and avoid contact between your hands and your face or eyes. If you can't always get to a sink to wash your hands with soap and water, use an antibacterial gel, which can kill viruses," Desmond advised.

Eating healthy foods, getting plenty of sleep, and regular physical activity can all help your immune system fight off cold and flu bugs.

Remember that holiday and work-related stress can weaken your immune system.

More information

The American Lung Association has more about colds and flu.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, December 2004
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