The flu season usually starts in November and peaks around the first of the year. The good news is that there are many ways to keep yourself and your family healthy during this time.
Washing your hands often, staying home when you are sick and consuming immunity-boosting nutrients are some of the best ways to avoid the flu.
1. Get a Flu Shot
Getting the flu shot is an easy way to stay healthy during winter. The vaccine protects against the most common strains of influenza virus that are expected to cause an epidemic each year. The vaccine is widely available and usually covered by insurance.
Young children, especially, are at higher risk of contracting the flu because their immune systems are still developing. They are also exposed to many more germs in daycare or before- and after-school care settings. Getting a flu shot is important for them because the flu can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia, sinus infections and ear infections.
Washing your hands is another important way to prevent spreading germs. Especially after coughing or sneezing, it is important to wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub to kill germs. Additionally, it is important to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Staying home when you are sick is essential for both adults and kids to get the rest they need to recover.
2. Stay Home When You Are Sick
Experts recommend staying home if you have flu-like symptoms such as body aches, chills, fatigue, runny nose, cough or headache. Staying home and taking care of yourself gives your immune system a chance to recover. It also helps prevent you from spreading germs to others, which is particularly important during cold and flu season.
If you have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, you should take a sick day from work and stay home until your temperature is normal for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication. Businesses can also help by reviewing their time and attendance policies before flu season begins and ensuring that employees are fully aware of the company’s expectations for when an employee should go home to rest or treat a fever.
Kids are at an especially high risk for getting the flu this winter, since they are likely to come into contact with many more germs during commuting, school and errands than adults do. It’s also important to keep young children at home when they are sick, and not send them to YMCA daycare or before- and after-school programs until their symptoms have gone away.
3. Wash Your Hands
Ever since you were a kid, it has probably been ingrained in your mind to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly to avoid spreading germs. This is especially true during flu season.
Germs can live on hard surfaces for several hours or even days, so kitchen and bathroom countertops, door handles, light switches, and gym equipment are breeding grounds for nasty germs that could make you sick. The first step in stopping the spread of germs is to thoroughly wash your hands with warm water and soap. You should scrub the palms, back of your hands, in between your fingers and underneath your fingernails. Rinse well and dry with a clean towel or paper towel.
In addition to washing your hands, you should also wear gloves when touching shared surfaces like grocery carts and public door handles. And if you are going to cough or sneeze, do it into a tissue or the crook of your elbow. This will reduce the amount of germs you touch, preventing them from getting in your mouth or eyes, where they can cause infections.
4. Stay Warm
As cold temperatures force people indoors, viruses are more likely to spread. This is why it’s important to keep your body warm and hydrated.
Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly is the best way to kill germs that could make you sick. It’s also important to disinfect common surfaces like light switches and doorknobs at home and work. Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing to prevent spreading germs. Lastly, be sure to get plenty of sleep. Studies show that getting enough rest helps your immune system fight off diseases, including the flu.
If you’re feeling a little under the weather, try eating hot meals and drinking plenty of fluids like soups and stews. Remember to dress in layers, and wear a hat, scarf and gloves when going outside. Avoid sudden changes in temperature, which can cause a change in your body’s internal thermometer and weaken your immune system. Keeping warm can help prevent illnesses and injuries from colds, flu and more severe health issues like heart attacks and strokes. Talk to your Methodist Physicians Clinic health care provider for more information.
5. Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting plenty of sleep is another one of the best ways to stay healthy during winter flu season. Sleeping helps the body release chemicals that boost the immune system, which in turn helps fight off germs and infections. Studies have shown that those who are short on sleep have a weaker immune system and are more likely to get sick.
Avoiding crowded places like shopping centers and community events can also help to reduce the chances of picking up a cold or the flu. Washing your hands often, especially before and after eating, is another important way to stay safe. If you’re going to be in a public place, wearing a mask is a great option that will protect you from the spread of germs.
Eating a diet rich in vitamins is also helpful for boosting the immune system, especially vitamins C and D. This can be done through consuming vitamin-rich foods like fish, eggs, and leafy greens or through weekly supplements.