It’s fall, and influenza season is in full swing. Perhaps you’ve already noticed colleagues, relatives, or acquaintances falling ill. Maybe someone in your house is showing the first symptoms of a cold or flu.
How are you going to avoid getting sick? While there’s no way to guarantee you won’t get the flu this season, there are some things you can and should do to lower your risk.
Remember that the flu can mean a week or more of missed work or school. For people with certain health conditions, catching the flu can result in serious and even life-threatening complications.
Not to mention, when you bring the flu home, you risk infecting your family members.
This season, try these proven tricks to avoid getting sick.
Get a Flu Shot.
Though a flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu, it’s the most effective flu prevention treatment for children over the age of six months and adults.
Research suggests that the vaccine can decrease your chances of catching the flu by 70 to 90 percent when there is a good match between the vaccine and the circulating flu viruses. If you do get sick, a flu vaccine may reduce the duration and severity of your symptoms.
It’s easy to get, too. Pharmacies, health clinics, and community centres often offer walk-in flu shot clinics. If you can’t locate one in your area or you’ve missed it, you can make an appointment with your family doctor.
The fall months are the best time to get vaccinated against the flu, with flu activity ramping up in the winter months. If you didn’t get the shot in the fall, you can get it in the winter. Remember that flu activity reaches its height in January and February, but the season can last as late as May.
Wash Hands Frequently.
Did you know that germs can live on surfaces for up to eight hours? Doorknobs, railings, faucets, tables, counters, and desks are common nesting grounds for virus-laden particles.
Germs may be present on surfaces in restrooms, restaurants, buses, schools, shopping malls, community centres, and other public places.
When you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your mouth, eyes, or nose, the virus can get into your body and spread.
Washing your hands as much as possible—and encouraging others to do the same—is one of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of germs. Use warm, soapy water, scrubbing vigorously for at least 15 seconds.
Make sure to scrub your entire hand, including between your fingers and under your nails. Do a thorough rinse, too.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a good substitute for killing germs and protecting against the flu, especially when soap and water aren’t available.
The flu is spread through virus-carrying droplets that are released into the air when a sick person coughs or sneezes. If they land in your open mouth or you breathe them in, you can get sick.
Avoiding sick people can be difficult, especially in close spaces, such as public restrooms, movie theatres, and buses. You can’t exactly make someone cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough, either. Though, you can encourage your kids and family members to do so.
Since the flu vaccine can also be spread by coming into contact with a contaminated surface, the best thing you can do is wash your hands frequently, carry hand sanitizer, and use disinfectant wipes to clean surfaces that might contain germs—even those in your own home.
Light switches, doorknobs, computer keyboards, phones, and other handheld devices are common germ zones.
Remember that the flu is contagious one day before symptoms appear and between five to seven days after they begin. When someone you know is recovering from the flu, you’ll want to keep a bit of distance—no hugs or handshakes—and practice proper hygiene, washing your hands often.
Take care of yourself.
Having a strong immune system can help you to fight off the cold and flu and other germs you come into contact with. Healthy lifestyle habits may help you to both avoid getting sick and may help you to bounce back quickly when you do get sick.
There is some debate as to whether exercise can increase your immunity to the flu. It has been suggested that moderate exercise can boost the immune system and prevent colds whereas the extreme exercising done by professional athletes may suppress it. No matter the effect of exercise on the immune system, exercising makes you feel better!
A balanced and healthy diet may also help when it comes to fighting the flu, although again, the research on this is not clear. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night and managing sources of stress may also help keep you healthy.