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Bacteria in Your Coughs and Sneezes Can Stay Alive in the Air for up to 45 Minutes

New research has given you more reason than ever to cover a cough and wash your hands afterward, Science Alert reports. The study found that some bacteria not only can travel as far as 4 meters (13 feet) with a sneeze, but can hang around for as long as 45 minutes after. The half-life, or time it takes for most of the bacteria to die, varied from 10 seconds to 10 minutes, but the fact that some could live nearly an hour is a concern for hospitals, scientists said.

This study not only underscores the importance of handwashing, but how vital it is to take steps that will keep you healthy if you do happen to be in the path of a sneeze or cough. Handwashing tops the list of effective strategies to prevent the spread of contagious disease, both at home and in health care settings. The key is to do it, and to do it correctly, using proper products and techniques.

That doesn’t mean constantly disinfecting yourself and your surroundings. With drug-resistant infections on the rise, it’s become clear we’ve overdone it with antibiotics and antibiotic-laden cleaners and soaps. So, begin with proper hand hygiene. Wash with regular soap and water and ideally dry your hands with paper towels when you’re in a public place. Steer clear of air dryers, which actually help spread germs.

To prevent colds and flu, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of vitamin D, preferably from direct sun exposure. Sugar is particularly damaging to your immune system, so pitch it from your diet. Foods that are good for you include fermented dishes such as pickles, sauerkraut, raw kefir, kimchee and miso, which can help “reseed” your gut with beneficial bacteria.
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