Flu season is upon us, and up to 20 percent of the U.S. population will contract the virus on average this year. And, because it takes two weeks to kick in, the sooner you get vaccinated against the flu, the better. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older be vaccinated, but it’s especially important for children, the elderly and pregnant women. Here are some extra precautions to stay healthy and to fight the flu.
1. Wash your hands frequently—and properly.
A study by Michigan State University researchers found that only 5 percent of people who used the bathroom washed their hands long enough to kill the germs that can cause infections. On average, the study found, people only washed their hands for about 6 seconds, when the magic number is really 15 to 20 seconds. What’s more, make sure your hands are wet before you apply soap and scrub between your fingers and underneath your fingernails. Then, rinse your hands and pat them dry with a clean towel.
2. Exercise for immunity.
If you want to keep your body—and your immune system—in tip-top shape, you have to work out. Getting in even a few moderate sessions a week can improve your overall health and keep illness at bay. Besides, you’ll improve your mood by sneaking in a yoga class or heading outside for a brisk walk on a fall day.
3. Beware of hidden germs.
How many people do you think used the same pen you did at the bank today? How about the keypad at the ATM? Especially during flu season, it’s prudent to assume that everything you touch could be contaminated. It’s not practical to wash your hands every 10 minutes when you’re running errands, so instead, carry hand sanitizer or focus on washing your hands well when you get home, which leads to our next tip.
4. Be hands-off.
Most people, without realizing it, touch their hands to their eyes, nose or mouth many times over the course of any given day. Being out and about during flu season could lead to days of feeling miserable. At least until you get home and can give your hands a good scrubbing, be careful to avoid giving yourself the flu.
5. Keep it clean.
You’re most likely cleaning your counters and floors on a regular basis, but what about door handles, TV remotes, telephones and cabinet knobs? Especially if someone has been sick at your house recently, that’s one way to—hopefully—prevent everyone in the house from ending up under the weather as well.
6. Get a good night’s sleep.
To put it simply, sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function. So if you want to stay healthy, one of the simplest steps you can take is to make sleep a priority.
7. Stay hydrated.
Both the outdoor air and heated homes are dry in the winter. Staying hydrated in the winter keeps mucous membranes soft and moist, preventing tiny cracks that allow viruses and bacteria to enter. So how much should you drink? A simple rule of thumb is divide your weight by two. That's the minimum number of ounces your body needs.
8. Get your probiotics.
Recent research shows probiotics can boost the immune system. The theory is healthy bacteria found in probiotics keep the gut and intestinal tract low in disease-causing germs. Yogurt with live active cultures and kefir are good food sources of probiotics. Over-the-counter supplements also are available.
9. Take a vitamin.
As you surely know, there seems to be a different claim on the news every day about the power of supplements. Instead of chasing unsubstantiated claims, cover all your bases by taking a multivitamin once a day.
Interested in getting a flu shot? Or is your yearly health checkup long overdue? Contact us today to take the first step forward in getting and staying healthy this winter. Same-day appointments are available by calling 419-660-2900.