Dear doctor, is there anything I can do to avoid colds and flu this winter?

28 November 2017

Q: With the festive season upon us, is there anything I can do to avoid colds and flu this winter?

A: Look after your hands! Hand hygiene is the most effective way to avoid infection as they are the main way we transfer virus and bacteria. Avoid hard scrubbing and the use of harsh chemicals as these just serve to damage the skin and dry, broken skin provides an extra place for the bacteria to grow and multiply.

Be gentle to your hands:

  • Avoid getting the skin on your hands dry and chapped
  • Wash your hands with gentle soaps and dry them properly (anti-bacterial soaps will often dry hands even further)
  • Apply moisturisers regularly
  • Wear gloves and mittens to protect hands from the harsh cold weather
  • Wear protective gloves when using detergents, grease and bleach
  • Always apply soap to wet hands - applying it to dry hands damages the skin
  • Use warm running water when washing your hands
  • Take the time to dry your hands properly paying particular attention to the base of your fingers
  • Use an anti-bacterial gel that contains alcohol and a moisturiser when you’re out so that you can sanitise your hands before you eat, after handling the supermarket trolley and coming off public transport
  • Encourage children to wash their hands when they come in from school and use hand gel before giving them snacks whilst out. Their hands are likely to have been touching all sorts of surfaces where bugs can be transferred

Other top tips to avoid the seasonal viruses:

  • Have a flu jab
  • Keep your work space clean, especially if you share with others: wipe your phone, keyboard, till and steering wheel with anti-bacterial wipes before using it to minimise the transfer of bacteria from others
  • Nose etiquette - always dispose of used tissues as soon as you’ve used them and gel your hands after blowing your nose
  • Eat your five a day
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Drink in moderation as alcohol weakens your immune system

Julie Spensley-Corfield is Clinical Nurse Sister and HIPCL at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.


The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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