Common Mistakes People Make During Cold and Flu Season

Sniffling, sneezing, stuffy noses, aches, and whole-body chills: these are the symptoms of winter. Each year, the common cold and the flu strike across America, causing millions of people to fall ill for weeks at a time. WebMD reports that more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized every year thanks to the flu–and a total of 1 billion colds infect the population annually. While these common illnesses can affect people during any season, they spread rampantly during the fall and winter.

No one wants to catch another bout of the common cold, and even fewer people enjoy suffering through the flu. Despite flu shots and cold remedies, these illnesses infect nearly everyone. Why? You may think you know everything there is to know about taking preventative measures to avoid the cold and flu, but your actions are actually helping to spread the common cold and flu.

There are a number of mistakes that every one of us is guilty of–many of those so-called “tried and true” preventative measures you learned from your parents could be doing you more harm than good. Your go-to health habits might be spreading the cold and flu to everyone around you, and even making you more prone to catching these contagious illnesses.

You Refuse to Take a Day Off

Many of us, especially those with demanding jobs, pretend we aren’t sick. Instead of resting up or admitting how terrible we’re feeling, we attempt to power through illnesses.

This is a big mistake. Showing up to the office is only going to spread the virus to your healthy coworkers, creating an unfortunate cycle of infecting more people, who in turn infect still others. You may feel like you can’t miss a single day of work, but in reality “powering through” will make you worse off, too: your illness will last longer.

You’re Too Warm

Many people mistakenly believe that cold, wintry air causes colds and the flu to spread. Contrary to what your grandmother believes, simply being cold does not cause illnesses to develop. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, not temperature.

In fact, viruses and germs love warm temperatures–they can’t survive in the freezing cold. Bundling up for warmth and your health isn’t going to stave off a cold. Rather, it can create an extra burden on your body that may lower your immune system, making you more likely to become ill. And those warm and cozy environments you enjoy in the winter are essentially ground zero for spreading sickness.

You’re Taking The Wrong Medicine

When you feel the first signs of a cold or the flu coming on, what medicine do you reach for? If it’s antibiotics, you’re making a terrible mistake. Antibiotics aren’t meant to treat a cold or the flu; they’re meant for bacterial infections, not viruses. If you’re taking antibiotics, you’re not treating your illness at all, essentially allowing it to flourish as your body fights it off on its own.

Additionally, even if you’re avoiding antibiotics you could be taking the wrong medicine. Multi-symptom cold and flu medications, according to USA Today, can do more harm than good because they don’t accurately target your symptoms. Instead of focusing on what’s really ailing you, they’re meant to “cure” everything at once. As a result, they can heal nothing.

You’re Washing Your Hands Too Much

For centuries, it’s been known that the simple act of washing your hands dramatically reduces the transmission and spread of illnesses. However, there is such a thing as washing your hands too frequently–and you can be too “germ free.”

It’s common for people to wash their hands even more often during a cold or flu outbreak. People mistakenly believe that sanitizing their hands and everything around them constantly will prevent sickness. Frequent hand sanitizer use, bleaching surfaces at home, and even spraying air sanitizers is overkill; it can lead to more harm than good. By eliminating all germs from your environment, you’ll lower your immune system’s resistance.

Don’t Make The Same Cold Mistakes

No one enjoys catching a cold or suffering from the flu. But, in an effort to prevent these exhausting and frustrating illnesses, we make mistakes–mistakes that can make us more susceptible to what we’re trying to avoid.

If you’re worried about the common cold or flu, there are other ways to prevent it. Make sure to talk with your doctor about preventative measures, like a flu shot, and the right medications you can take to alleviate your symptoms if you do fall ill.

Featured Tip

The most common way people catch colds and illnesses? Shaking hands, according to The Telegraph.