Flu season is almost upon us again. That means, lots of sneezing, sniffling, shivering, and other unpleasantness for five to 20 percent of the U.S. population. If you’ve had the flu before, you know it’s awful. Protect yourself from coming down with it by following the next 11 tips.
1. Get a Flu Shot
It’s really important to get a flu shot—especially for babies over six months old (depending on which vaccine), people with breathing problems, those who are chronically sick, and the elderly. While vaccines are a topic of debate, they are widely recommended by scientists, doctors, and the U.S. government as a way to prevent epidemics and pandemics—because if you’re a carrier, you can infect someone else. Each year, 200,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu and 3,000 to 49,000 people die. Get a shot to protect yourself!
You may not know this, but the flu shot recipe changes every year. That’s because strains of the flu are always mutating and changing. By administering a wide variety of vaccinations (nasally or by injection), doctor’s are better able to strengthen patient’s immune systems against any type of flu. This year, for the 2017–2018 flu season, the CDC recommends people only get flu shot injections.
2. Get Plenty of Rest
Each year in America, people miss 111 million workdays because of the flu! Although, it’s better to call in sick and get some rest than run yourself ragged and weaken your immune system—or spread germs to the rest of the office. In fact, the Sleep Foundation says getting rest may be your best chance of avoiding the flu and colds altogether. When you get enough sleep, your body is able to repair cells and keep your immune system working at its best. Stick to a strict sleep regimen to keep your body healthy this flu season.
3. Eat Healthy to Stay Healthy
We are what we eat, and if you’re pumping your body full of nutrient-dense foods you’ll be healthier for it all-around. This flu season, concentrate on eating foods that strengthen your immune system like:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Dark Greens (spinach and kale)
It’s also critical to stay hydrated during flu season. When your body has enough water in its system, it’s able to produce mucus to trap germs before they enter your body, flush out foreign agents through your urine, and keep your organs functioning at their highest capacity. It also goes without saying to avoid smoking during flu season—and always—too! Smoking impacts the cilia (fine hair) in your nose and airways. Without this hair, your body isn’t able to prevent germs from entering your system, so your chances of getting sick increase.
4. Disinfect Your Home
If one person gets sick with the flu in your home, your chances of getting it go up. Make sure to disinfect door knobs, sinks, and everything they touch to avoid sharing germs. Also, plug in an air purifier that removes germs from the air, and wash your hands often and try to avoid touching your face. While you’re never impervious to coming down with the flu, these methods will increase your odds of staying healthy.
When you exercise, you increase your blood flow and your body’s ability to find germs before they multiply. Studies have shown that vigorous exercise (of 2.5 hours per week) decreases your chances of getting the flu by 100 in 1,000 cases. Hit the gym to stay healthy this flu season!
6. Learn the Symptoms
Different strains of the flu produce different symptoms—and depending on your immune system you may experience worse or less severe symptoms than someone who has the exact same flu as you. If you feel the following symptoms starting, it might be time to call your doctor.
- Fever or Fatigue
- Stuffy/runny nose
- Achy muscles
- Cough/sore throat
7. Treat Other Illnesses Right Away
You may have noticed how elderly people and babies get sick more often. That’s because their weakened immune systems can’t do as good of a job fighting off sickness. But if you’re sick, your body will be in a similar place—on the ropes in the fight against foreign invaders. If you come down with a cold, stomach virus, or respiratory infection, talk to your doctor to get medicine. Then, get plenty of rest, eat healthy food, stay hydrated, and get well as soon as you can to avoid getting a double whammy with the flu.
8. Learn The Strains
There are a few types of flus that most commonly impact humans—influenza type A, B, and C. Type A and B are what you’ve most likely come down with because these strains are the culprits behind the outbreak 20 percent of the population gets sick from every year.
Type A is a widespread, pandemic strain of the flu. Animals and people come down with the Type A flu every year. This flu is the most prevalent because its virus never stops evolving—making it hard to vaccinate against. You can come down with Type A flu by coming into contact with someone else who is sick with it—like using a remote control they sneezed on or a doorknob they touched.
Only humans can come down with Type B flu. However, it doesn’t cause massive outbreaks. If you get Type B flu, it will have similar symptoms to Type A (which you can learn more about next!)
If you get sick with Type C flu, you might not even know it’s influenza at all. This mild flu will make you feel crummy, but it won’t spread rapidly throughout your household, your child’s school, or cause any epidemic for that matter.
9. Pay Attention to Timing
The flu creeps up and peaks November through March. This doesn’t mean you can’t come down with the flu at other times of year, but this is when most people are infected—spreading germs rampantly throughout the world.
10. Learn the Incubation Period
When you first come into contact with the flu virus, it could take up to four days to show symptoms—and you can be contagious for five to ten days after you get sick. If you or someone in your household gets the flu, limit your/their exposure to others for this timeframe. It’ll help prevent others around you, in your home, and yourself from getting sick.
10. Avoid Mass Transit and Crowded Settings
Since the most common type of flu is spread by person to person (through touching something they touched), you increase your odds of getting the flu when exposed to more people. Plus, if your immune system is flooded with different germs and virus than it’s used to encountering every day, it will have less of an advantage in eradicating the sickness. If you can, try to limit your exposure to large crowds, but if you have to wash your hands before eating and try not to touch your face!
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