The University of Alabama

Tips for Surviving Cold and Flu Season

The average adult catches between two and four colds per year; millions of workdays are lost each year to colds, flu and sinus infections. Employees in a campus setting may be prone to even higher rates of seasonal illness, but faculty and staff can take preventative measures to stay healthy during the cold weather season.

The Office of Health Promotion and the faculty/staff clinic at University Medical Center have teamed up to share some preventative health tips.

  • Boost your immune system with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to increase antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Active cultures in yogurt, which help to maintain healthy flora in the digestive system, can help to boost immunity. Avoid food and drink containing sugar, which can lower immunity.
  • Get a good night’s sleep: seven to eight hours of slumber can help to head off a cold.
  • Stay hydrated in cold, dry weather. Increasing fluids like broths, hot teas and water can help to keep mucous thin.
  • Exercise daily to help reduce stress, boost vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) and increase stamina. Regular exercise promotes better sleep, and can reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder.
  • Practice good hygiene: pay particular attention to washing your hands (front, back and fingers), with soap for at least 20 seconds especially before meals. Dry with a clean paper towel, and use it to turn off the tap to reduce the chance of recontamination. Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.
  • Try to stay away from sick people. While this can be difficult if a family member is infected, teach children to sneeze into the fold of their arm, or a tissue, but not into their hands. Place an alcohol-based hand sanitizer at your workstation and in the kitchen.
  • Encourage everyone in the family to blow their noses gently, but frequent- ly, to keep nasal passages clear. A humidifier can help to keep air moist, and reduce irritation caused by dry heat.

If you do get sick, know that antibiotics cannot cure the virus that causes the common cold, or influenza.

While over-the-counter medicines can help to make you feel better, home remedies can also be effective. Soothe a sore throat by gargling with a saline solution comprised of one teaspoon of salt dissolved in warm water. Chicken soup can also provide relief by opening up stuffy nasal passages, and soothing sore throats.

“During the cold weather season it’s very important to do what you can to protect yourself and others from viruses, and to take preventative measures that allow the body to rest and recharge so that it can fight off germs effectively,” says Angela Hammond, nurse practitioner at the faculty/staff clinic. “Of course, if that fails, our team at the faculty/staff clinic is available to provide fast and effective relief.”

The clinic is open to UA employees and dependents, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (including the lunch hour) for immediate advice or prescriptions for urgent complaints/symptoms.