Be Prepared for Flu Season
‘Tis the season for stuffy noses, coughs and sore throats—and unfortunately more, if you get the flu. Experts warn this year’s flu season, which runs from October through May, could be especially tough: three different strains (including H3N2) will rear their ugly heads. But fear not—you can keep your winter merry and bright by taking steps to help yourself and your family stay healthy.
Five easy ways to prevent the flu
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend several methods for keeping the flu out of your home. Try any or all of the following:
- Get your flu shot. This remains the number one way to prevent the flu, according to the CDC. And even if you missed the September push for flu shots, getting vaccinated now can still help you avoid the flu this season. The only caveat this year is a recommendation against using the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV). Only injectable flu shots are recommended for the 2017-2018 flu season. For more information about the CDC’s flu vaccine recommendations, just visit them online. And to learn more about flu shot coverage under your plan, check your healthcare benefits booklet or contact your employer.
- Wash your hands. Germs are quickly spread on commonly touched surfaces, such as door knobs, phones, elevator buttons, handrails and keyboards. It’s a good idea to wash your hands after touching these items, plus before you handle food and after you use the bathroom. You can further minimize the spread of germs by avoiding contact with your eyes, nose and mouth unless you’ve just washed your hands. Experts recommend using hot, soapy water and lathering your hands (including wrists) for a minimum of 20 seconds to ensure they’re spic and span!
- Allow ill friends and relatives their space. If a loved one comes down with the flu, they need time and rest to get better. By giving them the space they need to heal, you can also help keep the flu virus at bay and out of your own home. If your spouse or child has the flu, gently remind them to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze, and to avoid contact with commonly touched surfaces in your home. It can also help to frequently clean and sanitize surfaces such as kitchen and bathroom counters, sinks and toilets until your family member is better.
- Get enough sleep. The holiday season frequently finds us rushing around shopping, decorating and socializing. But letting yourself get run down is one way to find yourself sick with a cold or the flu. To stay well, just be sure to get enough sleep each night. Most people need between 6-8 hours.
- Eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids. Your immune system needs the proper tools in order to function at peak performance. In addition to rest, you also need a healthy, balanced diet and good hydration. Though it’s tempting to feast on snacks and desserts, or grab a quick fast food lunch while you’re running errands, try to maintain three meals each day. These should feature lean meats, fish or legumes; fresh produce; whole grains; and low-fat dairy. And it also helps to keep a water bottle with you to sip regularly. Your body will thank you.
If you get sick, take care of yourself
Despite our best efforts, sometimes the flu gets the best of us. If this is the case, it’s always best to stay home when you’re sick. This way, you give yourself the time you need to heal and will help minimize the spread of germs to your friends, family and coworkers. You may help reduce your recovery time with antiviral medications such as Tamiflu®—simply check with your doctor to learn more.
Is it a cold or is it the flu?
How do you know if your illness is actually the flu? Some cold and flu symptoms are similar, such as a cough and sore throat. However, flu symptoms tend to be more severe and include fever, chills, headache, muscle or body aches and fatigue.
For more information about this year’s flu virus, the flu vaccine and keeping yourself and your family healthy, just visit the CDC online.