There’s a chill in the air, tree branches are bare, and the holidays have come and gone. It can mean only one thing: Cold and flu season has officially arrived.Fortunately, you can take some steps that really safeguard against germs. But others you may have heard of don’t work as well, or at all. Here, two germ experts weigh in on which ones are worth it and a couple that aren’t.
Use hand sanitizer: Worth it
“Hand sanitizers have gotten better in recent years,” explains Charles Gerba, PhD, a germ expert and environmental biologist at the University of Arizona. Look for one that contains 60% alcohol. That’s the amount needed to kill germs.
You don’t have to overdo it, Gerba says. Use it once or twice during a typical day, as well as after using public transportation, when you get home, or before you eat (if you can’t wash your hands).
Wash your hands constantly: Not (necessarily) worth it
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This isn’t a free pass to skip the sink. Hand washing, especially after using the restroom or before you eat, is still crucial for protecting yourself from cold and flu germs. But you may not need to lather up after every handshake when hand sanitizer kills germs just as well. Plus there’s less room for error: Only 5% of people wash their hands for long enough to effectively get rid of germs, research shows, and only two out of three people bother to use soap!