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11 Tips to Prevent Respiratory Infections

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2022

If you are worried about getting sick from respiratory infections like cold, flu, or RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), it is important to take precautions. People who have a weak immune system are more likely to get sick from something serious, like pneumonia. Or, if they already have a condition like asthma, it might get worse. Taking precautions is the best way to protect yourself from getting sick. Here are some tips to help you stay safe:1-3

1. Wash your hands

One of the best ways to avoid getting sick is by washing your hands with soap and water. Wash often, especially after you have been around other people or touched public surfaces other people touch often, such as:1-3

  • Doorknobs
  • Elevator buttons
  • Handrails

2. Make sure your vaccines are up-to-date

Vaccines may help you avoid getting an infectious disease. There are vaccines available for some respiratory infections, such as the flu. Talk to your doctor about the vaccines that may be right for you based on your:1

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  • Age
  • Health history
  • Lifestyle

3. Practice social distancing

To reduce your risk of getting sick, try to limit contact with others who may be sick or who you do not know. Keep your distance from people when you are out in public.1-3

4. Cover your coughs and sneezes

Coughing and sneezing can spread germs, so cover your mouth when you need to. Use a tissue or the crook of your elbow to contain those droplets.1-3

5. Avoid touching your face

Your hands touch many surfaces during the day, so avoid touching your face in order to reduce the chances of spreading germs.1-3

6. Disinfect surfaces regularly

Make a habit of cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Such surfaces include:1-3

  • Door handles
  • Light switches
  • Remote controls
  • Cell phones

7. Stay active

A healthy immune system is better equipped to fight off infections, and regular exercise can help boost your immunity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day.4

8. Choose healthy foods

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help keep your immune system strong, so be sure to include plenty of them in your meals.5

9. Get plenty of sleep

Adequate sleep is key to a healthy immune system. Aim for 7 to 8 hours a night to give your body time to rest and repair.3

10. Keep your stress in check

Chronic stress can weaken your immune system, so try to incorporate activities into your day that help you relax and reduce stress levels. Stress and the holidays can sometimes go hand in hand. Take time for yourself and your health.3

11. Stay home if you feel sick

If you are feeling unwell, stay home and rest. Your body needs time to recover. This will also help reduce the spread of germs to those around you. It is never easy canceling plans, especially around the holidays. But, staying home and taking care of yourself is the best way to protect your health and the health of those around you.1-3

By following these simple tips, you can help reduce your risk of getting sick with a serious respiratory illness or triggering an existing condition like asthma. If you have any questions about protecting yourself, talk with your doctor. With the right precautions, you can protect yourself from respiratory illnesses even if you have a weakened immune system.

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