New online tool tracks cold and flu symptoms in your area

It’s a fact. Unless precautions are taken, Chicago families will be spreading more than just good cheer and joy this holiday season.

Confined spaces, dropping temperatures and the stress of holiday preparations are just some of the factors that make us all more susceptible to illnesses, like the common cold or the flu, during the holidays.

If the last thing you want is to send your holiday guests home with more than just dinner leftovers, WebMD’s Cold and Flu Map is a tool that can help you get a leg up on which symptoms are hitting your geographic area the hardest – right down to your zip code.

“The Cold and Flu Map enables you to see a county-by-county view of mild, moderate or severe cold and flu symptom levels in your area just by typing in your zip code,” said Dr. Michael Smith, Chief Medical Editor for WebMD. “With this knowledge, take precautions when in public areas.”

If cold and flu symptom levels are high in your area, Smith offers these additional prevention tips:

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth

Touching surfaces that have the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose is a common way that germs spread. You may also inhale infected droplets in the air that come from coughing, sneezing or talking.

Wash your hands frequently

The act of rubbing your hands together when washing with soap and water is what will eliminate germs. And while hand sanitizer is great, Smith warns not to rely on it as your only antibacterial source.

Clean areas you touch often

At the gym, office and grocery store – wipe handles, railings, keyboard, door knobs and telephone/fax-machine buttons with anti-bacterial wipes. Don’t share pens or pencils and don’t forget to clean your cellphone screen.

Stay home when you are sick

You can remain contagious for up to 5-7 days so avoid spreading symptoms by limiting your time in public areas.

Get the flu vaccine

“Vaccines are the surest way to prevent the flu,” said Smith. New vaccines are developed to protect against new strains so be sure to get one every year.

Boost your immune system

Eat a well-rounded, nutritious diet. Drink water to constantly flush toxins. Avoid stress. Get 7-8 hours of sleep. Quit smoking.

Drink hot tea

Steam from hot drinks, such as tea, will stimulate the hair follicles in the nose to flush germs. Using a little lemon will help thin the mucus lining.

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