There’s no doubt about it: flu season is nearly upon us. Considering how horrific last year’s flu season was, more people are probably realizing the importance of flu prevention. But just in case you hadn’t heard: the 2016-2017 season involved nearly 30.9 million reported influenza cases, along with around 600,000 hospitalizations. The symptoms of the flu can be extremely serious, especially among those who are most vulnerable. That’s why it’s so critical to stay healthy and avoid getting the flu this year. Here are five ways to increase your chances of staving off influenza.
- Get the Shot: Doctors and other medical professionals will tell anyone who will listen that the most effective form of flu prevention is vaccination. While some people will scoff at the vaccine’s ability to prevent illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that if vaccination rates increased by 5% across the country, around 483,000 influenza cases could be prevented. The flu shot is more accessible than ever and the earlier you get it, the better. Don’t forget that getting your annual flu shot doesn’t just protect you and your family; it also protects at-risk populations who cannot receive the vaccine or who may experience more serious symptoms if they contract the virus. Around 27% of U.S. patients said they’d visited an urgent care center between 2014 and 2016, and fortunately, many of these centers do provide both flu prevention and subsequent care for patients.
- Wash Your Hands: Even if you’ve gotten your flu shot, that doesn’t mean you can go ahead and abandon your healthy habits. Frequent and thorough hand-washing is a great way to minimize the spread of the flu and eliminate germs that can make you sick. While alcohol-based hand rub will do in a pinch, there’s no substitute for soap and water. Encourage proper hand-washing efforts with the whole family by singing “Happy Birthday” twice through while you scrub and making sure the practice becomes second nature.
- Be Polite: Another way to alleviate the need for post-flu care is to keep your distance and always be polite to those around you. If you’re feeling ill, stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours (particularly if you have a fever). If someone around you is under the weather, avoid close contact with them for the time being. Always cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Finally, take extra care to not touch your face without washing your hands first. These precautionary measures may sound a bit extreme, but you’ll be glad you prioritized your health when others around you are suffering from seasonal colds or the flu.
- Boost Your Immunity: If you’re able to keep your immune system in check, you’ll have a much better chance of fighting off any kind of illness you come into contact with. This fall and winter, eat a diet that’s rich in fresh fruits and veggies. Exercise often and aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you can reduce unnecessary stress in your life, that may help as well. Stay in tune with your body and try to give it what it needs, rather than running yourself ragged and risking an infection.
- Clean Your Environment: Believe it or not, you can easily contract the flu just by touching a surface that’s contaminated with the virus. Experts say that the flu virus can remain active on surfaces for at least 24 hours after contact, which means you have to be proactive if you want to avoid the need for flu care. It’s essential to disinfect common area surfaces such as tabletops, doorknobs, light switches, appliance handles, tech chargers, and more at least once per day. While it’s not a foolproof way to avoid the flu, it’s a good technique to at least cover your bases.
Using these methods may not allow you to avoid illnesses completely, but they’ll give you a fighting chance of fighting off the flu this year. For more information on how to avoid the flu this season or to learn about treatment for flu diagnoses, please contact us today.