Despite the area’s mild winter so far, we are still at the peak of cold and flu season here in Western Pennsylvania. To help you keep germs at bay and hopefully avoid getting sick this season, follow these five essential tips in your day-to-day life.

1. Wash Your Hands

This is the single most important thing you can do to stop the spread of germs. Always use soap and water to wash your hands when possible. In a pinch, you can use hand sanitizer, but it is not ideal. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, then rinse and dry with a clean towel or paper towel.

2. Wipe Down Gym Equipment Before Using 

Public gyms are unfortunately great places to pick up bugs, since they are frequented by so many people and body fluids like sweat and saliva are often not properly wiped off the machines. 

So before you start your workout, use an antibacterial wipe or spray provided by the gym and a paper towel to wipe down equipment. Don’t use the towels that the gym provides, unless you know they are clean. If they have been used to wipe down dirty machines all day, they will not be effective.

3. Don’t Use Cosmetic Samples at the Store

Many people dip their fingers or even their lips in the product samples of makeup, lipstick, perfumes, etc. So avoid testing these samples yourself, even if you place the product on a piece of paper first. If the product itself has already been exposed to bacteria, those germs will be transferred to the paper, then onto your skin.

4. Don’t Share Personal Items 

Avoid sharing items like makeup brushes, lip balm, drinking glasses, and eating utensils with anyone, even your family members if you can help it. If one person is catching a cold, it won’t be long before the whole family is exposed to the bacteria – if you’re not careful.

5. Disinfect Common Surfaces Regularly

Germs quickly build up on surfaces that you and/or other people touch all the time. Disinfect these areas with antibacterial wipes or other products in order to keep those germs from transferring to you. 

Some common surfaces to regularly disinfect include bathroom and kitchen countertops, your cell phone, keyboard, desktop, and the grocery cart handle at the store. Additionally, make sure you replace your toothbrush regularly, as it can easily harbor bacteria.

Bottom Line

Taking small steps like these on a daily basis can have a profound effect on your health – and the health of those around you. Stay home from work or school if you are not feeling well to avoid spreading germs to other people around you.

Flu season can last as late as May in the US, according to the CDC. So if you are at a high risk of flu complications or can easily expose germs to the elderly, children, and people with compromised immune systems, there is still time to get a flu shot this season.