Tips to Stay Safe During the Flu Season
Influenza, or the flu, is not only one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in the world today, it is also one of the most preventable. Caused by the influenza virus, the symptoms of the flu can range from mild to severe, and include a fever, cough, a sore throat, diarrhea, and vomiting.
The flu was first described in medical texts over 2,400 years ago, and has since been responsible for multiple worldwide pandemics. In spite of a globally available prevention vaccine, the seasonal disease still causes hundreds of thousands of deaths per year. While most people can recover from the influenza disease in one to two weeks, it can worsen already chronic health conditions for the aged, or cause life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia, by weakening the immune system.
People that recover from the flu can still act as carriers of the virus, which is why prevention measures are paramount during the flu season (October - March) to avoid a pandemic. In this article, we discuss five tips to stay healthy to prevent infection during the flu season. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Get the Flu Shot
Available throughout the year, the influenza vaccine trains the immune system to fight weak flu strains so that it is strong enough to endure, or even fight, the real ordeal if the body is infected. Though the effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year, it is still highly recommended to get the shot at least two months before the flu season begins. Mass vaccination by encouraging your workplace and family to get the shot too helps create a ‘circle of health’. If everyone is vaccinated against the flu, the less privileged can benefit from an immune society without having to get the vaccine themselves.
Wash Your Hands
Staying clean is important at all times for general hygiene, but it is all the more so during flu season. Keeping your hands clean and washing them on a regular basis is the most important preventative measure you can take. Remember to wash them thoroughly, and spend at least twenty seconds thoroughly lathering and rinsing your hands. Avoid touching your face, and have a sanitizer or disinfectant wipes handy at all times.
A few other general cleanliness tips are:
- Shower daily
- Keep your house, office desk, and car spaces clean
- Avoid traveling to public or populated areas as much as possible
- If you are sick, stay home from work and avoid contact with the young, already ill, and elderly
- Avoid sharing objects
- Remember to use a tissue when you cough and dispose of it immediately
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for your immune system in general, flu season or not. Since the flu affects people with low immunity much more adversely, a few general lifestyle principles can go a long way in helping you build or maintain your immunity to the infection:
- Since smoking is known to increase the risk of contracting the influenza virus, it is best to avoid tobacco products altogether
- Daily cardiovascular exercise can do wonders for the body and immune system. A simple 20-minute jog or brisk-walk can go a long way in the long term
- Eat a healthy and nutrition-rich diet, remembering to include a lot of green vegetables and fish in your meals, as both are linked to increasing stamina
A good 7-8 hours of daily sleep can reset the body, reduce stress, strengthen the immune system, and improve memory. Apart from sleep, avoiding stressful situations and dealing with stress appropriately is directly related to physical well-being and immunity.