Flu Season Do’s and Dont’s
When flu season arrives, don’t resign yourself to an eventual case of the sniffles. Take these proactive steps to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. Protecting yourself from the flu is important not just for your health, but for those around you. You can be a carrier of the flu even without exhibiting flu symptoms, which means that even if you don’t get sick yourself, you can still infect those around you. This can be particularly dangerous for the elderly, small children, pregnant women, and those with medical conditions such as asthma. While most cases of the flu are mild, secondary complications such as pneumonia are common and can even be fatal. According to estimates by the World Health Organization, there are anywhere between 250,000 to 500,000 deaths influenza related deaths worldwide annually.
Don’t: Neglect Your Yearly Vaccinations.
While the flu shot is far from perfect, getting a timely vaccination improve your chances of avoiding the flu by 60 to 70 percent. Even if you do get the flu after receiving a vaccination, your symptoms are likely to be lessened and your recovery time quickened. It is critical to get revaccinated every year. While many vaccines are good for a lifetime, the flu virus evolves particularly quickly, meaning lasts years shot will not be effective at fighting this year’s strains. If you have small children or are a primary caretaker for an elderly relative, it is even more imperative to make sure they are immunized, as these populations are particularly vulnerable to serious complications.
Do: Wash Your Hands Throughout the Day.
Simply washing your hands after using the restroom may not be enough. The flu virus spreads easily on commonly touched public areas and can stay active on a surface for up to two hours at a time. Think hand rails, elevator buttons and other common spaces that may be touched by hundreds of different people a day or more. Wash your hands multiple times a day for at least 15 to 20 seconds at a time. Do so thoroughly with soap and water, preferably with a sink with an automatic faucet and an automatic dryer. Sing the happy birthday song to yourself while you wash and make sure you get through at least one rendition before you turn off the faucet. This is a particularly useful tip to share with young children who are already at a heightened risk of catching the flu as well as experiencing serious or even life-threatening complications. Other important hygienic practices to use are sneezing into your elbow rather than your hand and avoid unnecessary physical contact with other people such as handshakes and kisses on the cheek.
Don’t: rub your eyes, mouth or nose with your hands.
This is a prime way to introduce viruses into your system. Pay close attention to what your hands are doing, and try your best to keep them away from your face. This will help prevent the virus from gaining easy access into your vulnerable immune system.
Do: Take Advantage of Your Sick Time.
While you may be able to power through a cold, coming down with the flu mandates an absolute stay-at-home day. How do you tell the difference when so many cold and flu symptoms overlap? Both will typically start with a sore throat and may include symptoms including sneezing, a stuffy nose and general fatigue. However, with the flu, symptoms typically start much stronger and faster. You may experience extreme exhaustion and headaches. If you have a temperature of 100 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, you have the flu, and it is time to cash in on that sick time.
Even with all precautions in place, there is still a chance you may come down with the flu. If you do end up getting sick, stay home. The flu is highly contagious. If your kids get sick, keep them home from school. If you are sick, do your coworkers a favor and stay out of the office. Not only will overexerting yourself when you are sick likely hinder your body’s natural healing process, you are also likely to spread the virus to vulnerable friends and coworkers. Stay home, rest, drink soup and stay hydrated until your fever is gone and you can safely return back to your normal routine.
Do yourself a favor and get your shots, wash your hands, and prioritize your health if needed. Taking these necessary precautions will significantly increase your chances of staying healthy this flu season.