Now that flu season is upon us, it is vital to get a flu vaccine. All of our patients are sick in some way, and many are elderly, which means that their chances of catching the flu are greatly increased. Often, the flu can lead to other serious complications such as pneumonia or death. The simplest way to avoid all of these threats is to get a flu shot.
You can get a flu shot from your doctor, from a clinic or local drugstore, or even from us! Just ask your nurse for more information. Typically, the flu vaccine takes two weeks to be effective, as your body needs time to build up antibodies against the flu virus. Even if you had a flu vaccine last year, it is important to get a new one this year because the influenza virus mutates constantly. Last year’s vaccine will no longer be effective. This year’s flu vaccine has been specially formulated to protect against the current strain of the virus.
Flu activity is highest from December to February, so don’t waste any time. Once a flu outbreak begins, it can be hard to stay healthy. Getting a flu shot will protect you most of the time and keep you healthy and safe.
Since experts are predicting an influenza epidemic this season, it would be in your best interest to follow these tips for fighting off the flu. Unfortunately, due to a genetic mutation of the flu virus, the flu shot given this year will only be effective for one third of the people who received it. Therefore, your chances of catching the flu are greatly increased. This doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in your underground fallout shelter until summer, however. The CDC is warning people not to panic, and simply to take more precautions to prevent catching the flu. Fighting off the flu (and preventing it entirely) is definitely possible if you follow these steps.
1. Get the Flu Shot
You’re not crazy – we DID just mention how this year’s flu shot is ineffective due to a genetic mutation in the influenza virus. However, that doesn’t mean it’s completely ineffective. It is estimated that the vaccine will be protective one third of the time. Additionally, experts believe that even if it doesn’t stop the flu entirely, it may prevent serious complications that require hospitalization. In other words, if you don’t already have a flu shot for this year… it might be worth getting one.
2. Wash Your Hands
It’s another obvious one, but people often forget to do it! Washing your hands entails more than just dipping your fingers in water for two seconds. First, completely wet your hands and apply soap. Lather your hands in suds by rubbing them together, reaching in between your fingers, under your nails, and the back of your hand. Scrub for a full 20 seconds, and then rinse them off. Sounds like a lot of effort, but it will do wonders for keeping you germ-free.
3. Avoid Contact with Sick People
This is hard to accomplish when your entire office comes down with the flu, but it’s something you should really try to accomplish. You can’t get sick if you aren’t in contact with the virus! Ask your boss if you can work from home until people are illness-free. Or if it’s your home that is infected, try sleeping in a different, uninfected room from the sick. Disinfect any shared surfaces before touching them.
Photo by flu.gov.
4. Don’t Touch It!
While it may seem natural to rub your eyes after a tiring day or bring your fingers to your chin in contemplation, this is actually a big no-no. Touching your eyes, nose, and mouth is one of the easiest ways for germs to spread! You collect germs on your hands by touching people or things around you. Luckily, these germs can’t just break through your skin – they need an orifice to access the inside of your body. Unfortunately, touching your face is so commonplace for many people that don’t even realize the dangers of germ transmission.
5. Take Antiviral Drugs
Because the flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics are ineffective against it. However, there are some medications that can help calm things down if you do contract the flu. Antiviral drugs can’t cure influenza, but they can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also are good at preventing serious flu complications that can lead to a hospitalization. These aren’t over-the-counter though, so you will need to get a prescription from your doctor before taking them.
6. Get Some Sleep!
Sleep is a glorious thing, but it’s even more glorious during flu season. Keeping yourself well-rested with eight to ten hours of sleep a night is key to preventing the flu. Your body repairs and restores itself when resting, which means if you do happen to catch the flu virus, this is the time when it will produce antibodies to fight it. Not getting enough sleep could leave your body defenseless against the oncoming influenza attack.
7. Eat Healthy Food
The foods you eat act as fuel for your body. If you’re chowing down on Cheetos and Mountain Dew, chances are your body won’t have the nutrients it requires to keep your immune system running effectively. Feed yourself foods high in essential vitamins and minerals. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables does wonders for your immune system, which will in turn increase your flu-fighting defenses.
There’s no guarantee that following these steps will keep you flu-free. Sometimes, you just can’t avoid your influenza destiny. Fighting off the flu, however, should at least be a part of your winter mindset, as losing a week of your life to high fevers, body aches, headaches, sniffling, and vomiting is certainly no fun.