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Say no to germs

Steps you can take to avoid getting sick

Your hands come into contact with millions of germs on a daily basis. They lurk everywhere, but particularly on heavily used items, such as remote controls, computers, phones, door handles, light switches, keys and wallets.

Keep germs at bay with these strategies

  • Wash your hands correctly

    Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important and easiest ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. Vigorously wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Scrub the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails. Rinse well.

  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water isn't available

    Make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol (ethanol and isopropanol) — that’s the level at which it’s effective against germs. Whenever you see a hand sanitizer, get in the habit of using it — at the grocery store, the gym, at school or at work.

  • Stop touching your face

    Most of us touch our eyes, nose and mouth about 16 times over the course of three hours, say researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. It’s a habit that’s hard to break, but it could keep you from catching a virus, such as the flu.

  • Get your shots

    Vaccines prompt your immune system to produce antibodies that protect you from disease. So, be sure to get your flu shot. If you’re age 50 or older, it's recommended you receive the new, two-shot shingles vaccine External Site as well.

    Most preventive vaccines are covered at 100 percent by your Wellmark health insurance plan. Just be sure to check your benefits before getting a vaccine by logging in to myWellmark® Opens New Window .

Give your immune system a boost

The human body is equipped with its own internal defense mechanism. When it’s working properly, it’s your immune system that protects you from bacteria and viruses that can lead to illness. But, sometimes, it needs a boost.

There’s no single solution to keep your immune system working at top speed. Instead, you can rely on some tried and true strategies.

  • Get the sleep your body requires

    In a 2015 study published in the journal Sleep External Site, people who slept less than six hours per night were significantly more likely to develop a cold than those who slept for more than seven hours.

  • Eat a healthy diet

    According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people whose diets are low in iron; selenium; vitamins A, C and D; and several of the B vitamins may have fewer white blood cells, which are the immune system’s first line of defense against disease. Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthy oils.

  • Consume alcohol only in moderation

    Drinking too much alcohol slows down the immune system. Research reveals that women who consume four drinks within two hours or men who consume five, had fewer disease-fighting cells. Some research shows that a modest amount of alcohol (one drink per day for women and two for men) may actually help improve immune system function.

  • Get enough vitamin D

    Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system. Yet, many adults don’t get enough. The recommended dose per day is 800 international units (IU). If you don’t get enough vitamin D in your diet, talk to your doctor about taking a daily supplement. As with any supplement, more is not necessarily better.

  • Exercise regularly

    Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise three to five days per week. More isn’t necessarily better. In fact, intense exercise may cause your immune system to not work as well as it should.

    Need some exercise inspiration? Check out the Blue fitness articles.

Check out our "Get a clue about the flu" series

Need more information about colds and flu, as well as how to avoid them? Take a look at these articles: