It's wise to take precautions during cold and flu season, but experts say it's possible to go overboard. While there is no specific number of times recommended for hand washing or surface cleaning during the day, here are some guidelines:

  • Consider your daily activities. If you're only at your own work station, wipe down surfaces now and then, and wash hands after coming in contact with public areas such as restrooms. But if you're job involves handling money or working directly with the public, wash more frequently.

  • If someone else at home is sick, it's a good idea to disinfect surfaces daily, and wash hands.

    (Michelle Kumata/The Seattle Times/MCT)

  • Hand sanitizers are helpful in a pinch, but hand washing is best. Sanitizers can often dry the skin and cause cracking, and not all products protect against every virus.

  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are obviously sick.

  • Get vaccinated, eat healthfully, get plenty of sleep.

    Sources: Steve O'Brien, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland; Amy Nichols, UCSF Medical Center.

    Contact Angela Hill at ahill@bayareanewsgroup.com, read her Sunday Give 'Em Hill column, or follow her on Twitter @giveemhill.