It may sound like common sense, but with the hectic and constantly on-the-go lifestyles that many of us lead, it's easy to forget some of the simple ways we can take care of ourselves to avoid catching another common cold or the flu. If you’re out and about from one place to the next, you may not even think about the unexpected places you’re visiting that may actually boost your chances of picking up germs that can make you sick. We uncover them here – and then teach you how to boost your immune system, so that no matter where you are, you can help your body be on its best defence yet.
It’s always fun to see a film on the big screen, but you’ve probably never thought about what a hot spot for germs this public gathering place can be. Think busy bathrooms, shared seats, salty finger foods and lots of people in close vicinity to one another other. Since movie theatre seats may not be cleaned that often, wipe down the armrests and cup holders with an antibacterial wipe before taking a seat. Keep your jacket and purse tucked on your lap rather than putting them on the floor in front of you. Before sitting down to munch on your popcorn, make sure you’ve washed your hands, and avoid touching your seat in between bites. And if the guy next to you is sneezing and coughing away – find a new seatmate for the show.
The most germ-filled area of a gym will typically be the weight machine handles and dumbbells. Think of how many different people are doing a series of reps one right after the other. The least germ-filled area will likely be the benches because there’s a layer of clothing between your body and the equipment, and people are typically careful about laying a towel down before they exercise here. Still, you’re best to wipe down all benches and cardio equipment before and after using them. And don’t forget to wash your hands before and after your workout.
The one place you’ll find rush hour traffic outside of the roads is a grocery store – they’re busy places with people zipping in and out at all times of day. And what’s one thing these shoppers have in common? The shopping carts they’re sharing to get the job done. The next time you’re off to pick up a cart of groceries, make sure you protect yourself from germs first. In addition to your grocery list, flyer and coupons, don’t forget a package of antibacterial wipes to clean off the grocery cart handle before you shop.
When eating out at a restaurant, most people are generally concerned about sanitary practices in the kitchen, and rightly so. But little attention is paid to the actual menu, which changes hands multiple times throughout the day. Given that cold and flu viruses can survive for several hours on hard surfaces, you’ll want to make sure you wash your heads after ordering your meal, rather than before you first sit down at the table. And don’t forget - the same rules apply when ordering off those new touch screen menus that are popping up at quick-serve restaurants everywhere!
Hot. Stuffy. Crowded. Those words quickly come to mind when you think of public transit options like subways, buses and commuter trains. Not only can it be uncomfortable to travel with big crowds in a tightly packed space, but this is also prime space for transfer of germs. Think about people sneezing or coughing right next to you and poles, seats and handles being touched by thousands of (possibly unwashed) hands, and you get the picture. The solution? Cough or sneeze into a tissue or crook of your arm rather than your hands to avoid spreading germs to others, and wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer once you’ve arrived at your destination.
Lemon and lime wedges at a bar or restaurant
They may look pretty resting on the edge of your drinking glass, but after squeezing some lemon or lime juice into your water, toss the wedge aside rather than dropping it into your beverage. In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, researchers ordered drinks at 21 different restaurants. Looking at the lemon slices used as garnish, they found that two-thirds of them carried different microorganisms. These wedges are touched not only by the person slicing and serving them, but often lay in a container on a bar top where other restaurant patrons can dip their fingers in and grab one themselves.
Gas pump handles are contaminated with germs that can make you sick. Not only are they used by hundreds of people in any given day, but they’re also touched immediately after opening a dirty gas tank, which only adds fuel to the fire, so to speak. You likely can’t avoid a weekly trip to the gas station, but you can better protect yourself by grabbing a paper towel or tissue from your car and using it to cover the pump handle before you fill up.
Your own stuff
Your purse, cell phone, keys and money. Think about how many of your own personal things you touch repeatedly on a daily basis without washing your hands in between. If there are ever cold and flu-causing germs on your hands, they can easily be transferred onto these items, and then back to you the next time you use them. Take care to wipe your cell phone down at the end of each day, and avoid sharing it with others. Also avoid placing your purse on floors in public places (think your office or public transit), since that’s an easy way to pick up infection-causing bacteria and viruses.
In addition to the steps mentioned above, a healthy diet is one of your best bets for staying healthy and keeping your immune system strong throughout the cold and flu season. Make sure your diet includes plenty of the following nutrient-packed foods:
- Yogurt: Contains probiotics (“good” bacteria) that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses in the digestive tract. If you’re unable to fit yogurt into your diet routine, a probiotic supplement is your next best alternative. Plus, if you’re travelling during the cold and flu season, they don’t require refrigeration so they can be easily packed in your bag.
- Milk: Contains vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, that helps boost the immune system. Since we get less sun during the colder months, vitamin D is especially important during this time. Consider taking a vitamin supplement if you don’t drink milk or if your doctor advises you that your vitamin D levels are low.
- Fish: Omega-3 essential fatty acids are “good” fats found in fish such as salmon, that help to strengthen the body’s resistance to infection
- Deep orange fruits and dark green vegetables - Packed with nutrients such as beta-carotene and vitamin C, fresh or frozen produce can easily be incorporated into hearty soups and stews, salads, stir fries and pasta dishes. You can also boost your intake with a vitamin C supplement, which will not only help to shorten the duration of a cold, but may also reduce the severity of your symptoms.
- Try cooking with garlic, ginger, onions and mushrooms – these ingredients all have natural immune-boosting properties and add delicious flavor to a variety of dishes.
All hope is not lost if, despite all of your preventative efforts, you still feel that scratchy throat or stuffy nose coming on! Jamieson Cold Fighter combines four natural cold-fighting ingredients, Echinacea, ginger, vitamin C and zinc all in just one pill or chewable tablet per day to help give your immune system a boost. It’s the ideal natural solution to help fight off sore throats, coughs and congestion as soon as you feel them coming!