Fall is right around the corner, and that means several things: school is back in session, football season is upon us, cooler weather is coming – and the flu is back. While it is always hard to predict when the flu virus will begin spreading, it typically starts in the early fall and peaks in January-February. There are several steps you can take NOW, in order to make sure you are prepared to stay healthy throughout the flu season.
- Get a flu shot. Whether or not you are in a “high-risk” group (children, elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic conditions, etc.), everyone should consider getting a flu shot. If you do fall into one of these groups, consider it a necessity. Allegro Family Clinic in New Hope is a great local option for getting in and out quickly, so you can get back to your routine. You can also stop by one of your local Dutch Pharmacies for a shot (subject to availability).
- Wash your hands regularly. The flu virus is typically transferred from person to person via the hands. Washing your hands after using the restroom, visiting public places, and handling money can reduce your risk of exposure. It is also wise to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer for those times when it is not convenient to wash.
- Stay away from those that you know are sick. If you are a caregiver of a sick child, make sure to use plenty of Lysol or other disinfectant to take care of yourself. It is difficult to care for a child when you are sick, as well.
Actively exercising these precautions to avoid the flu does not guarantee that you will not get sick this fall/winter. The flu is unpredictable and highly contagious. However, taking these common-sense steps now and throughout the season can reduce your likelihood of contracting the virus, which is good for you and those around you.
Live healthy & live happy!
*For information and resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the 2013-2014 flu season, please visit their website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2013-2014.htm.
It’s that time again! Days are getting longer, the weather is warming up, the azaleas are starting to bloom, and everyone in the house is sneezing. Allergies can be highly annoying and they come around uninvited every spring. Sneezing, congestion and itchy eyes are the most common symptoms. In more extreme cases, they can also cause symptoms such as hives and swelling. Allergies are typically caused by substances that are inhaled, swallowed, or touch your skin.
But don’t let the fear of allergies keep you from enjoying the beauty of spring! There are several types of over-the-counter and prescription medications you can take to help you with your allergies this season. Talk to your doctor about the best medication for you. Antihistamines (Advil Allergy Sinus, Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec, among others) will help counter the effects of histamine released during an allergic reaction. Histamine, while a big word, is really quite simple. It is a substance released by your immune system to fight damaging foreign substances. In the case of tree pollen (and other similar allergies), the immune system is fooled into thinking this is a damaging foreign substance, so it releases histamines to assist in the fight. An antihistamine simply helps counter the effects of the histamine. Decongestants come in a few different forms: oral, nasal spray, or eye drops. A nasal spray is the most common form of decongestant. Corticosteroids are also used to fight allergic reactions, but you will need a prescription. Some common coricosteroids are Flonase, Nasocort and Nasonex.
Tis the season for pollen, so make sure to continue and wash your hands frequently after being outside – this is a good habit to get into no matter what season it is!
Stay Healthy & Stay Happy!
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.