How can I keep myself from getting sick? And do I really need a flu shot?
You're not imagining it — people really do catch colds more often as the temperature drops. That's because the viruses that lead to colds and flus thrive in cooler temperatures, leading to higher transmission rates. Short of avoiding all human contact, the best way to protect yourself from colds is to practice good hygiene. Keep your hands clean, lay off the cigarettes (smoking increases the risk of catching a cold), and avoid rubbing your eyes. ("A sick person rubs his nose, touches the elevator button, you touch the button, and then you touch your eyes," Dolhun explains. "Suddenly, the virus is in your respiratory system.")
Both doctors agree that the flu shot is a must. “This year looks to be a bad one for flu," Cranshaw says. "The flu has already had more exposure than usual, and the strain we are seeing, H3N2, is particularly nasty." The good news? This brutal bug is among one of three strains included in this year's vaccine. It's recommended for flu-vulnerable people such as pregnant women and the elderly, but it's a smart move for everyone.
Not convinced? Crenshaw recalls a patient who turned down the vaccine because he was young and healthy, only to catch the flu. "The next time I saw him, he was on a ventilator in the ICU, and then he was dead," he says. "I don't like to push anything on my patients, but when people ask about the flu shot, I share that story."