The flu, also known as influenza is now at epidemic levels in most of the United States. There are ways to prevent the flu or lessen its severity if you do catch it. Did you know that some prevention strategies involve your skin and mucous membranes?
Influenza (also known as “the flu”) is an illness of the respiratory system caused by various viruses. It is contagious. It can strike anyone at any age. It can make you mildly sick to severely ill and even cause death in some cases. Those at greatest risk are the very young, the elderly or those with underlying chronic health conditions.
- Get your flu shot, also known as the “Influenza Vaccine,” every year. It takes approximately two weeks to protect you so if you’ve not done so yet, get one as soon as you can. There’s also an intra nasal (applied into the nose) version, but some patients are not eligible for this one if they have certain medical conditions.
- Wash your hands well (all surfaces) with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, before you eat, and before touching you face, eyes, nose and mouth. This helps to prevent illness causing germs from entering your body and making you sick.
- Carry and use alcohol based hand sanitizer. Keep it handy to use if you’re not near a sink with soap and water to clean your hands. *Rub it on all hand surfaces until it dries.
- Use a paper towel to touch door knobs, faucets and toilet knobs when using public restrooms (or sharing a bathroom with others in a dorm room, apartment or with someone who may already be ill). If you miss this step, you will be transmitting germs from these surfaces onto your hands then into your body (if you touch your eyes, mouth or nose).
- Get your sleep. Getting the proper amount of sleep each night (7 – 8 hours) will help to keep your immune system healthy. Sleep deprivation can inhibit your body’s ability to fight off infections.
- Stay hydrated. Dry mucus membranes (eyes, nose and mouth) decrease our ability to fight off germs that we are exposed to.
- Eat healthy foods. Consume a diet rich with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Doing so will provide your body with an abundance of nutrients that can help you fight off infections, prevent diseases and build up your general immunity.
- Steer clear of crowds once flu season hits, as much as possible, to reduce your exposure.
Practicing these tips above and working them into your daily routine, will help to prevent catching colds and flu anytime and are especially helpful when flu season hits.
Who cannot get the influenza vaccine: Some examples, but not limited to the following; having an allergy to eggs, a past history of having Guillain-Barre syndrome, history of a severe reaction to a previous Influenza vaccine, or being currently sick/ill at the time of the shot.
*Contact your doctor for any questions you may have regarding current or past illnesses, the influenza vaccine or any other health concerns.
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