As medical professionals, teachers, flight attendants and anyone who works with the public knows, flu season is no joke. If you work in an office, indulge in some holiday shopping or have kids who attend school, you might think that getting through flu season without getting sick is a pipe dream.
But it’s not. You can avoid getting sick this flu season. These five tips will show you how.
1) Get the Flu Shot
There’s a reason why getting the flu shot consistently tops lists of flu season tips to stay healthy — it’s because getting the vaccine is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself, and those around you, from getting the flu.
Sure, the flu shot won’t completely protect you from infection, but it can make you as much as 60 percent less likely to get the flu if you’re a healthy adult. If you get the flu anyway, having had the vaccine can shorten your illness and lessen its severity, and that means you’re less likely to be hospitalized, or even die, due to flu complications. Not to mention, you’ll be back to your old self a lot sooner and a lot less unhappy in the meantime.
The CDC recommends the shot for the elderly, children, pregnant women and others who are at a high risk of flu complications, as well as those who live with or care for them. That includes family members and caretakers of infants younger than six months of age, who are too young to be vaccinated themselves. The flu season ramps up in October or November, so it’s best to get the shot by the end of October.
2) Wash Your Hands Frequently
If getting a flu shot is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the flu, washing your hands often is the second-most important thing. Wash your hands after using the bathroom, before preparing food or eating and after touching surfaces that may be contaminated or coming into contact with a person who may be sick. To cover your bases, it’s a good idea to wash your hands as often as possible during flu season and to avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose if you can.
Know how to wash your hands right to kill the most germs. Use soap and water, and scrub every surface on your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. If soap and water aren’t an option, use hand sanitizer instead.
Of course, keeping your hands clean doesn’t just prevent the spread of flu. It can protect you from all kinds of other contagious diseases, too, so it’s one of the easiest ways to stay healthy.
3) Take Care of Yourself
If you’re stressed out, stretched thin, eating poorly and not sleeping enough, you’ll be more vulnerable to illness — or simply too exhausted to take the right steps to protect yourself. Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Get enough sleep. Exercise regularly. Stay hydrated.
4) Keep Your Surroundings Clean and Disinfected
Any surface you come into contact with that others touch could be contaminated with the flu — it only takes one microscopic droplet of saliva or mucus from an infected person to spread the virus. Use disinfectant wipes to clean surfaces you touch often, including light switches, doorknobs and your keyboard, phone, mouse and desktop at work. Disinfect surfaces daily, or after they have been touched by someone who is or may be sick.
5) Avoid Contact With Sick People
If you don’t come into contact with a person who has the flu, you won’t get the flu. But avoiding sick people is easier said than done. If you think someone is sick, maintain a six-foot perimeter, if possible, to protect yourself. If you have to come within six feet of a sick person, or if you make physical contact with a sick person, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer afterward — and encourage them to cough or sneeze into a tissue to prevent the spread of germs.
The flu can make you miserable, but it’s more than a mere annoyance. This run-of-the-mill infection can quickly turn serious, even deadly, if complications arise. Don’t let tragedy strike your family — take steps to protect yourself from the flu.