Hear that person coughing behind you in the checkout line of the supermarket? That sound is a sure sign the cold and flu season has arrived.
And as sure as there is no cure for the common cold, you can bet your last dollar that someone in your family will be in need of cough suppressant and tissues sometime in the next four months.
That doesn’t, however, mean you have to suffer along with them. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Americans follow the advice your mother gave you as a child: Cover your mouth when you cough, cover your nose when you sneeze and don’t forget to wash your hands when you do either.
Colds and the flu are spread primarily from person to person in the form of respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. This happens when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air and are deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby.
Sometimes germs also can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a doorknob and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.
The CDC says some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like computer keyboards, doorknobs and desk tops.
There are some very simple things you can do to ward off these infectious droplets. The CDC recommends that you wash your hands — with soap and warm water — for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most grocery stores and drugstores. These sanitizers do not need water to work since it is the alcohol in them that kills the germs on your hands.
Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. If a tissue is not available, sneeze into your armpit so the germs will not transmit to the next thing you touch. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.
It’s also a good idea to give your electronic gadgets a good cleaning from time to time. Kim Komando, a technology writer whose CyberSpeak column appears in this paper every Sunday, says cell phones, electronic tablets and other mobile gadgets can have more bacteria than a toilet.
“Give your phone, and tablet, a good rubdown with a microfiber cloth to clear it of germs and bacteria,” Komando wrote recently. “Dampen the cloth slightly for more-stubborn stains and fingerprints.”
And be sure to wash those microfiber cloths — or use antimicrobial versions — to avoid germ buildup within the fibers.