Prevention Tips

Illness Prevention

There are several things you can do to avoid getting sick and to stop the spread of infections or resistant bacteria to others. Defend yourself, your family and friends, and others with these healthcare tips:

Wash your hands. Some viruses can survive on doorknobs, keyboards, and other objects. Touch them, then touch your nose or mouth and you've got it! Wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water for 10-30 seconds. And don't forget to wash your hands after being in public places, before eating all meals, and after direct contact with others.

Avoid sharing eating utensils. Your friend or family member may not look sick yet, but that doesn't mean anything about tomorrow. Do not share mugs, cups, or utensils with anyone.

Keep your distance. If you know someone has a cold or the flu, give them plenty of space. The virus is spread through airborne transmission or personal contact. Don't take a chance of exposing yourself to their germs.

Eat a well balanced diet. Drink plenty of water and get a good night's sleep.

Avoid exposure to smoke. If you smoke, take steps to quit! Avoid second hand smoke from others.

Get a flu vaccination. Ask your health care provider whether you and your family should get the flu vaccine. Go to to find a flu vaccine clinic, or call 1-888-692-0269. 

Sources: AWARE campaign and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Home Treatments & Self Care

When you're sick with a cold or flu and you feel terrible, it can be hard to believe you don't need an antibiotic. Antibiotics won't make you feel any better, any faster. They don't work for colds, flu and bronchitis that are caused by viruses.

Antibiotics won't work for these illnesses

Classic Cold Symptoms

  • Sore throat
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Colored nasal discharge
  • Postnasal drip
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sinus congestion
  • Headache
  • Laryngitis

Flu Symptoms

  • Similar to a cold, plus:
  • Aches and pains
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fever up to 103 degrees
  • Sensitivity to light

Bronchitis Symptoms

  • Cough
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat

What To Do when You are Sick
If your health care provider determines that you do not have a bacterial infection, ask about ways to help relieve your symptoms. Instead of using antibiotics, your health care provider may recommend some of the following home treatments and strong non-prescription medicines that can help you feel better while your body heals itself:

  • To speed healing: get extra rest.

  • To improve mucous drainage: drink 8 to 12 glasses of fluids daily and use a humidifier or vaporizer.

  • For sore throat or muscle aches: take ibuprofen or acetaminophen or throat lozenges.

  • For cough: take cough medicine that contains dextromethorphan.

  • For sinus congestion: take a decongestant that has pseudoephedrine & avoid smoke.

Special Note: If you are pregnant, nursing, have a chronic medical problem, are taking medications, or are treating someone under age 6, call you doctor's office for advice as soon as respiratory illness develops and before taking medicines.

Non-prescription care
This table can help you remember the best home treatments and non-prescriptions medicines to care for your cold and sore throat symptoms. 


Home Remedies

Non-Prescription Medicines

Generic Medication Name

(active ingredients)

Common Brand Names 

(to save money look for store brands)

Stuffy Nose

Steam inhalation

Saline nose drops






Runny Nose

Wash hands after blowing your nose






Chlor Trimeton




Increase fluid intake

Use room humidifier

Take a steamy shower


(cough suppressant)





Increase fluid intake




Sore Throat

Gargle (warm salt water)

Don't smoke

Suck on hard candy

Throat lozenges




Spec T


Fever/Muscle Aches

Sponge bath

Cool compress

Rest in Bed

Heating pad on sore muscles

Analgesic (pain-killer)


Aspirin (adults only)




Anacin, Bayer, Bufferin, Ecotrin

Motrin, Advil, Motrin IB, Nuprin


Watery Eyes/Sneezing

Avoid substances you are allergic to or which cause irritation






Chlor Trimeton







Table source: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department,

Important Points:

  • Read the entire label about warnings and proper use before taking medication.

  • Ask your pharmacist or physician about drug interactions if you are taking any other medication or herbal product.

  • If your condition does not improve in a reasonable period of time, see your physician.

  • If you have any questions or concerns, please check with your physician or pharmacist.

  • Many products contain multiple ingredients.

  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving children any non-prescription medications.

When to Seek Care

Call your health care provider if you have a cold or cough illness accompanied by any of the following.

  • A fever of 101 degrees or higher

  • Rash covering most of your body

  • Persistent ear pain
  • Persistent toothache or sinus pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Chest pain, tightness or wheezing

  • Cough producing blood
  • Cough lasting 3 weeks or longer
  • When you feel sick and have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease.

Special Note: If you are elderly, call your health care provider if you have loss of appetite, clouded thinking, difficulty walking, or tiredness that is out of the ordinary.

Preventing Resistance

Here are things you can do to fight antibiotic resistance:

  • Wash your hands! Hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of infections.
  • Never take antibiotics for viral infections, such as colds, cough, the flu, or bronchitis. Remember, unnecessary use of antibiotics does more harm than good.
  • DO NOT pressure your healthcare provider to prescribe antibiotics. Let your doctor decide when antibiotics are appropriate.
  • Use antibiotics only when your doctor prescribes them.

Wise Antibiotic Use

Follow these guidelines if an antibiotic is prescribed for you:

  • Take an antibiotic exactly as your health care provider prescribes

  • Take the antibiotic until it is gone, even if you are feeling better.

  • NEVER:

    • Save the medication for later to treat yourself or others.
    • Share your antibiotics with someone else.
    • Take leftover antibiotics.
    • Take a prescription that belongs to someone else.


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