The flu season is a challenging time of year, but with the right precautions, you can significantly reduce the risk of catching the virus. From practicing good hand hygiene to making simple lifestyle changes, here are the best ways to keep healthy through flu season.
Get a Flu Vaccine
The flu vaccine is one of the most effective tools for preventing the spread of the flu virus. While vaccines are not 100% effective, they can significantly decrease the severity of the illness and reduce your chances of catching the virus in the first place.
The flu vaccine is made from inactivated virus particles that stimulate your immune system to produce antibodies against the virus. The antibodies can recognize and attack the virus when your body is exposed to it. The flu vaccine is designed to protect against three different variations of the virus that are predicted to be the most common each year.
Who should get a flu vaccine?
The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months receive a flu vaccine before every flu season, especially the population groups that are at a higher risk of developing serious complications, including young children, pregnant women, the elderly, as well as immunocompromised individuals.
Wash Your Hands Regularly
Germs from unwashed hands can be easily transferred to other objects, like doorknobs, handrails, or table tops and then transmitted to another person’s hands. Washing your hands is one of the best ways to stop the spread of germs from person to person and prevent getting sick during flu season. Make sure to wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom, using a tissue, or covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
What are the correct hand-washing steps?
- Lather up and rub your fingers and palms for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice or the ABCs once. Don’t forget to scrub under the fingernails, around the wrists, and between the fingers.
- Rinse well with warm or cold water to get your hands completely clean.
- Dry your hands with a clean paper towel or air dryer.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer (gel or wipes) with an alcohol content of at least 60%.
Avoid Sick People and Stay Home if You Are Sick
The flu is a highly contagious disease that spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. One of the best ways to make sure you remain healthy through flu season is to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
If you develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue, you should stay home until you have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication. This way, you will avoid accidentally spreading the flu to others.
Don’t Touch Your Eyes, Nose or Mouth
Your eyes, nose, and mouth are common entry points for the flu virus, and touching them with unwashed hands can introduce germs into the body. Respiratory droplets containing the flu virus can land on surfaces such as doorknobs, keyboards, and phones, and when you are in contact with these surfaces and then touch your face, you may inadvertently transfer the virus into your body. By avoiding touching your face, especially if your hands are not clean, you will reduce both the risk of infection and transmission of the flu.
The flu virus can survive on surfaces such as countertops, door handles, handrails, computer keyboards, and phones for up to 48 hours. You should regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces to kill any germs that may be present and reduce the risk of transmission. This is especially important in places with high traffic such as public transportation, schools, and offices.
Practice General Healthy Habits
Keeping your immune system healthy is essential in protecting your body from the flu. Here are some lifestyle habits that you can adopt to support your immune system:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C and zinc
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Stay physically active
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Manage your stress levels
Cover Your Mouth and Nose
Respiratory droplets containing the flu virus can travel up to six feet before they settle on surfaces. When an infected person coughs or sneezes without covering their mouth and nose, these droplets can easily spread, potentially infecting others. By covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or doing an “elbow sneeze”, you will help contain respiratory droplets and prevent the spread of the virus.
Preventing Flu at Work and School
When the flu is transmitted in the workplace or at school, it may lead to widespread illness, increased absence, and reduced productivity. Preventing the proliferation of the flu is essential for maintaining a healthy environment and reducing the impact of flu season. Below, we list everyday preventive measures that will help minimize the spread of germs.
- Find out whether your employer has an established plan in the case of a flu outbreak.
- Check whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site or at other nearby locations.
- Regularly clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as door knobs, keyboards, and phones, to help remove germs.
- Check whether your workplace provides tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and disposable wipes.
- Bring your own food and utensils to work to reduce the risk of transmission through shared items.
- Keep your hands clean by washing them thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Take breaks and prioritize self-care to reduce stress and support your immune system health.
- Show your colleagues how to do some of your tasks so they can cover for you in case you get sick and need to stay home.
- If you start feeling sick while at work, go home as soon as possible. You should only return to work after you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.
- Find out whether your child’s school or childcare program has a plan in place for when an outbreak of flu occurs.
- Ask the school whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site.
- Check whether your child’s school routinely cleans frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Check whether the school provides hand sanitizer, tissues, and disposable wipes.
- Encourage your child to bring their own food and utensils to school to reduce the risk of transmission.
- Ask whether sick students are separated from others and who will care for them until they can go home.
- Encourage your child to stay home until they are no longer contagious.
- Ask about the absentee policy for sick students and staff.
- Check whether the school has a plan in place for continued learning if there is a flu outbreak that requires school closure.
Flu season is a time to prioritize your health and take necessary precautions to avoid getting sick and spreading the flu to others. By adopting habits such as practicing good hand hygiene, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and getting vaccinated, you can help reduce the spread of the flu and keep yourself and others safe.
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