Recent news reports are filled with headlines about the American “flu epidemic.” While this media coverage can seem frightening, there is no reason to feel like you should lock your doors and stay at home. There are several basic things you can do throughout your day to reduce your likelihood of catching the virus.
- Get a flu shot. If you are around other people regularly, you could benefit from getting a flu shot. It is highly recommended for children, individuals over 50, and anyone with a chronic illness or weak immune system. Many insurance plans now cover flu shots. Check with your provider for more details.
- Immunize your children. A recent study found that families whose children in daycare were immunized had 42% fewer infections with fever than those whose children were not immunized. Obviously, discuss with your pediatrician prior to any immunization plan.
- Wash your hands. Don’t just “rinse and run.” Always use soap and wash for 15 to 30 seconds. If you’re unsure of how long to wash, try humming the birthday song. Just don’t let the person next to you hear!
- Don’t smoke. The cilia are tiny hairs that line the nose and airways. These tiny hairs, which are very effective at sweeping viruses away before they can infect, become paralyzed with smoke.
- Take your vitamins. Vitamins E, A, and C, as well as B-complex vitamins and minerals have properties that enhance immune response. Make sure you are getting your recommended daily allowances of these vitamins and other antioxidants.
- Get some rest. Experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Your immune system can be weakened dramatically by chronic sleep deprivation.
- Exercise. Working out is known to reduce stress, which has been shown in research studies to compromise immune responses.
Flu prevention is an inexact science. While there is no fail-proof formula for avoiding the virus, practicing some common-sense and taking the precautions above can help you stay healthy this flu season. And living healthy means living happy.