Wellness Solutions Blog

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Best Practices to Avoid Viral Illnesses

best practices

We believe that a pharmacy should not only take care of you when you are sick but prevent you from getting sick in the first place.

There are several simple best practices that health experts say are beneficial to avoiding many illnesses, particularly important during cold and flu season.

Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, coronavirus and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing or unclean hands.

Cold and flu viruses may be spread by indirect contact. For example, someone who is sick sneezes onto their hand and touches a doorknob, only to potentially transmit the virus to the next person who touches the doorknob. Viruses that cause colds and flu can survive on common surfaces for up to 72 hours.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), handwashing, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing can help prevent infections and even help prevent skin and eye infections, including:

  • Reducing the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40%
  • Reducing diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
  • Reducing respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%
  • Reducing absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57%.

Correct handwashing is the key to getting the most protection from germs. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Handwashing is still highly preferred. If hand sanitizer is unavailable for purchase, there are recipes to make your own online.

Here are steps recommended by the CDC for effective handwashing:

  • Rinse hands under clean running water if available. The temperature of the water does not appear to affect microbe removal.
  • Use soap to wash hands because it helps to lift soil and microbes from the skin, and people tend to scrub more thoroughly when using soap. Studies show that antibacterial ingredients are not necessarily more beneficial than plain soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, where high concentrations of microbes are often found. Lathering and scrubbing creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease, and microbes.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds, the equivalent of humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice or singing the ABC song (30 seconds).
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. Some recommendations include using a paper towel to turn off the faucet after rinsing, but there are no studies to show it improves health.
  • Dry your hands on a single-use or clean towel or air dry them.

In addition to protecting yourself from becoming ill, the CDC says frequent, effective handwashing helps the whole community stay healthier. Preventing sickness reduces the amount of antibiotics people use and the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will develop. Reducing the number of infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics – the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Handwashing can also prevent people from getting sick with germs that are already resistant to antibiotics and that can be difficult to treat.

Other tips for avoiding illness include:

  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Adults with the flu can spread it to others starting the day before they first feel sick – and up to 5 to 7 days after they first feel symptoms. Children may be able to spread the flu for even longer than 7 days. If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. (Your fever should be gone without using fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – whether or not you have the flu. Throw the tissue in the trash. Coughing into your elbow will also reduce the virus that could cling to your bare hands and be transmitted to others.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose, allowing germs to get into the body.
  • Clean surfaces and objects that may have germs on them, like doorknobs. Use hot, soapy water or a household cleaner.
  • Taking targeted immune-boosting vitamins and supplements like zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and selenium during high-risk periods can also protect against the onset of viral syndromes.
  • Studies show probiotics with proper strains balance intestinal bacteria and increase immunity.
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Water can help strengthen your immune system, keeping the illness at bay. If you do get sick, water flushes your system, rehydrates you and washes out the toxins.

You have probably seen people wearing face masks in public places. The CDC does not recommend that people who are not sick wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illness. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of illness to help prevent the spread of disease. Wearing a mask when sick is especially important around people whose immune system is compromised or the elderly.

Most importantly, stay informed. Knowing what precautions you can take and where to go to get credible information, such as the CDC at cdc.gov or World Health Organization at who.int is the best way to make plans to protect yourself and others.

Cypress Pharmacy’s staff of caring professionals is always available with answers and information regarding your medication and wellness questions. However, our professionals are not equipped to test for or diagnose Coronavirus. If you have symptoms of a viral illness including coughing, shortness of breath or fever, please consult your nearest medical professional.

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About Cypress Pharmacy

For more than 40 years, Cypress Pharmacy has provided excellent health and wellness services and programs, as well as astounding customer service. When you come into the pharmacy you can expect to be warmly welcomed by our pharmacy staff of caring professionals who are always readily available with answers and information regarding your medication questions. We believe that this is the kind of personal service and attention that you deserve and should expect from a family-owned community pharmacy.

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