By Winnie Yu
Germs are everywhere, all of the time. During the warmer months we generally coexist peacefully with these microscopic organisms. (The hot sun helps kill germs.) But winter is another story. "Cold and flu viruses thrive in nasty weather," says Neil Schachter, M.D., professor of pulmonary medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and author of The Good Doctor's Guide to Colds and Flu (Collins). "Dropping temperatures also cause people to spend more time indoors with windows closed. This allows viruses and bacteria to build up."
Touching a contaminated object and then rubbing your nose or eyes is typically how you catch a cold. These viruses can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours. The flu, on the other hand, is transmitted by droplets of a sick person's sneeze or cough.
In addition, trillions of bacteria are all around you. Most are good bacteria. But some can make people very sick, with respiratory, strep, staph, and other infections. The good news is it doesn't take a lot of effort to steer clear of germs. Here's how.