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Getting Ready for Cold and Flu Season with Asthma: 4 Steps to Take Now

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As temperatures drop, we inch closer to the time of year when it may be hardest to stay healthy: the dreaded cold and flu season.

This time of year can be especially tough if you have asthma. Avoiding germs is made more difficult by the extended time many of us spend indoors as temperatures drop. Kids, and some adults, return to school where there is elevated exposure. And more people confined to indoor spaces can mean greater chances for cold and flu viruses to spread.

Even if it feels like the odds are stacked against you, it’s possible to take action. There are a few things you can do to help you stay healthier this cold and flu season.

Wash your hands

I spent more than three years working at a school-aged daycare. While kids may be considered germ factories, I always said that university students were worse.

Regardless of where you find yourself working, studying, or otherwise spending time, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.

Soap and water is always best when it comes to washing your hands. But don’t skimp on the scrubbing! The amount of time you spend actually scrubbing your hands may help kill more germs. Remember to sing through the alphabet or the Happy Birthday song to ensure you’re washing long enough.

Hand sanitizer or wipes are a good second choice if you don’t have access to a sink.

Wipe down surfaces

Clean surfaces with disinfecting wipes regularly to help keep germs at bay.

One option for cleaning surfaces is to use a sanitizing solution that contains bleach. The University of California offers some simple instructions for making a bleach-based sanitizing solution at home. Mix one tablespoon of bleach with one gallon, or about 3.75 liters, of water. Put in a spray bottle for use.

The solution can be used to wipe down surfaces that come in contact with food. Spray solution on and let air dry, or wait at least 2 minutes before wiping down.

If bleach irritates your lungs, there are other options. You can find non-toxic cleaning products at many grocery stores and pharmacies.

Check in with your doctor

Your doctor may recommend changes to your asthma care plan before the start of cold and flu season. Planning ahead can make sure your asthma medications are all up-to-date before you find yourself in the middle of sneezing, stuffed-up friends, family, and colleagues.

This is also a good time to ask your doctor for any advice on what to do if you get sick. Make sure to write it down so you’re not second guessing yourself.

Your doctor can also let you know if it’s a good idea for you to consider other preventive medications, such as the influenza vaccine, also called the “flu shot.” Flu strains change from year to year. Even if you’ve received a flu shot in the past, you may not be protected from current strains.

Make healthy choices

Cooler seasons might be the time you want to snuggle up with a movie, comfort foods, and a blanket rather than working up a sweat. But practicing healthy habits all year round is a key part of maintaining good overall health.

Make the effort to keep up healthy habits, including exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, and keeping your stress levels low. And if you squeeze a workout in, it might be the right time to reward yourself with a warm bowl of soup and a feel-good movie.

The takeaway

The steps to staying healthy during cold and flu season are simple, but they do take a bit of work. Start by making small changes before cold and flu season hits so you’re ready to fight back when you — or someone in your household — starts sniffling.

For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

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