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It’s that time again: flu season


The first snow has fallen and with it comes the reluctant admission of the arrival of winter. Once everyone starts spending more time indoors the inevitable will happen: sickness.


It is always beneficial to revisit some standard reminders of how we can prevent the spread of the flu.


These tips are helpful for everyone but especially those who are more at risk of serious disease and complications.


What you can do to prevent flu:


1. Wash your hands … often and right. The obvious times to wash up are after you use the restroom and prior to eating but there are numerous incidents in an average day when you should wash your hands that a lot of people are not aware of:


-after putting gas in the car

-after visiting the grocery store

-after a visit to the hospital

-after handling money

-after petting someone else’s pet

-after visiting someone’s home

-after blowing your nose

-after shaking hands with an acquaintance

-after interacting with children that don’t live in your home

-after touching shoes


It may seem a bit over the top but each of those events can introduce viruses to your hands that eventually will make their way to your respiratory system causing illness.


Washing your hands should include running water and soap. Rub all surfaces of your palms, fingers, and wrists for at least 20 seconds. Can’t get to soap and water? Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your car and use it when you get in to travel to your next errand.


Pro tip: as you get better at washing your hands you may realize how much you are touching your phone.


Give your phone a good cleaning on a regular basis (according to manufacture directions, not with soap and water) to avoid undoing all the good you did with the hand washing.


2. Keep your hands away from your face. This almost goes without saying but a lot of people do not realize just how often their hands touch their face on a daily (even hourly) basis. A quick perusal of different research studies shows that we touch our faces anywhere from 23-60 times per hour. A lot of those touches go right to the lips, nose, and eyes which are ready vessels to receive the flu (as well as other) viruses. Break the habit by purposefully putting your hands elsewhere- your desktop, your belly, fold your arms, or twirl your hair instead of rubbing your face.


3. Pay attention to nutrition. It’s no secret that a healthy diet will boost your body’s ability to fight off germs. Our immune systems are amazing. We fight off thousands to tens of thousands of germs a day. When we give our bodies the vitamins and minerals it needs its immune system is better equipped to do what it does best: fight for health. Talk to your doctor about a good vitamin to add to your diet and make sure to follow nutritional guidelines for plenty of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.


4. Pay attention to other health habits. For the same reason that nutrition is important for your immune system other habits of health can offer your body strength to defend from invaders. Habits such as staying hydrated, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep.


5. Get your flu vaccine. The CDC states, “The single best way to reduce the risk of seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated each year…” (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm)


6. Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow - not your hand. This tip doesn’t necessarily protect you from getting the flu but it will eliminate part of the risk you pose to those close in proximity to you. Coughing or sneezing into your hand just lets those viruses travel further when you then touch other items (or people) in your environment. When you cough or sneeze into your elbow it keeps those pesky germs from getting a free lift to a new host from your hands.


7. Stay home when you don’t feel well. This is another favor to those that are around you. The flu is most contagious in the first 3-4 days of illness. This is the time when you are most likely to spread the virus to those around you. Staying home is not only kind to your would-be flu contractors but it will also speed your convalescence. Don’t try to be a hero - rest and fluids will get you back on your feet soon enough. An added benefit is that if you don’t get others sick then you won’t need to cover for them at the office when they have to call out sick!

The name of the flu game is awareness. Be aware of what you’re touching, who you’re visiting, and what you’re being exposed to. Hand washing should become routine for you as well as taking care of yourself in order to give you the best chance at avoiding the nasty flu.

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